Friday, June 18, 2010

Grease up to the elbows... [Learning to change a starter.]

So my car was fixed. Went to pick it up and tried to start it... 10 minutes later I am talking to the mechanic. He told me the starter was dying and gave me a quote. Seeing as I had just payed him for fixing my car I wasn't inclined to immediately fork over more for it. So I spent some more time and got it to start. Drove it home and immediately looked up the price for my starter. For $140 dollars less than the quote I was given I could purchase a new starter. The YouTube video on how to change a starter didn't look to tough. I mean... how bad can it really be to unhook 2 wires and take out 2 bolts. Piece of cake, right?

Five minutes later, I'm out starting under my hood. Trying my hardest to locate the starter. That ever so elusive starter. Staring, searching, time passes... 15 minutes later my neighbor Darren is walking Jeffrey (my little brother) back over from martial arts practice. He gives me the information that I am lacking. The starter is located under the engine. Oh, silly me! [Note to self: next time you decide to look for a part under the hood... find a diagram or something so that you are actually looking in the right place.] Another neighbor, Craig, dropped by and offered the use of his jack. Once he got the car up he was able to show me where the starter was. He also showed me the wire that leads from my battery to the starter. Disconnected the battery and he went off to his house to grab his tools because he didn't want to wait. Joey (my brother) was on his way with tools. Mom got out the car repair ramps and my brother towed my car up onto them. Then Joey proceeded to take out the starter. This thing was a pain to get into because of the heat shield that he had to remove first. Unfortunately, car manufacturers must not think of ease of repair when putting together the engine. The top bolt is a pain to get to. My brother had to climb up onto the car and reach his hand down through in a very odd angle to even get at the bolt and getting at it from the bottom is even trickier. He was able to get it out just in time to head off to the shooting range (he was meeting buddies there). So my Craig told me he would help me install it once I bought it.

So most of my morning and part of my afternoon was spent on my car. I'm so glad Craig has a creeper (one of those rolling skateboard like things that make working on a car so much nicer!). His style of aiding in car repair for others is to teach them how - so that if they ever need to do the repair again, they can. So I got to try out a creeper and go under a car and put the starter in. Hooked up the wires only to have to unhook the little one again because it was in the way of tightening the bigger one. It took us quite some time to discover that we needed a 13 mm socket for the ratchet. The old one had used a 14 mm. We eventually got that one on and the little wire reattached. Then came the bolt and nut. One bolt is attached to the car and just needs a washer and nut placed on it. Unfortunately, that is the bolt on the underside. If they were thinking, they would of put that one on top. It would have been so much nicer. So putting the washer and nut on was easy, but you can't tighten it yet. Now for the top bolt that threads into the car. The one you have to snake your hand around things to even reach from the underside. The one that you need to get a step stool out to even reach from the topside unless you want to kneel up on the car frame (like my brother did). Yeah, time for that bolt.

You know, putting in a bolt should take what - three minutes at most? I mean, come on. You get two holes to line up and thread the thing. Piece of cake, right? Wrong. One hour later and I am up to my elbows in grease. Did I mention the cars an 87 and the engine is filthy? [Side note: apparently you can wash your engine. I never knew this - had never even heard of it. There are a few things you don't want water in. I was informed that the nearby car wash has an engine and undercarriage setting. I may give that a try.] So I'm under the car fiddling with the starter (those things are surprisingly heavy) to try and get the hole to line up so that the bolt will move to no avail.

Enter step stool. I had to snake my arm down and around all sorts of things to get to the bolt and hole. My fingers kept slipping off and I just couldn't get a good grip on it. Called my bro to see if he could come back by after shooting to fix it. He said he'd swing by. Headed back outside to find out that another neighbor, Austin, had dropped by and that his girlfriend's sister (who just happens to be studying to be a mechanic) was willing to give it a go. She was successful in getting it started and most of the way in. Then Austin tightened it the rest of the way as well as tightening the nut on the underside. We reattached all the pieces on top that we had moved out of the way. Secured the hoses and hooked up the battery.

I hop in to start it. Craig commented that if it didn't start now it means it was the battery. Thankfully, I wasn't worried about the battery (seeing as the battery was purchased just over a week ago). Turn the key and... started! Happy day! My car is fixed and five of us are covered in grease.

So, in retrospect, I would totally do this again. I learned a lot about my car. I got to chat a lot with my neighbors. And I didn't have to fork over an additional $140 dollars to a mechanic. I also found 6 four-leaf clovers. So a good totally unplanned day.

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