My Brain Is a TrollJuly 23, 2012 at 6:18 PM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
Tags: car repair, cars
“I can do that for you.”
I honestly didn’t even think about it at the time, but afterward I just couldn’t believe the words that came out of my mouth.
My ex had called asking about the status of child support for the month. It’s a fair question–sometimes I don’t always have all of it, and she’s pretty good about working with me. This month I wasn’t going to have “all” of it, in the strictest sense of the word, but in August I would be able to make that up–
“The reason I ask is–”
She explained that her car needs a fuel pump. Our older son is a mechanic and *could* do the work; however, they’ve had a falling out over ridiculous family stuff. Typically, a fuel pump is an expensive endeavor.
Well, hell–I had done my fuel pump recently. Logically, therefore, I am experienced in this kind of thing.
“I can do that for you.”
It was too late; I was in. We arranged for me to get the car from her second job that night–a Friday–so that I could start on it early Saturday morning.
My question was this: so the fuel pump isn’t out completely–the car still runs? Yes, apparently so. Very rough. Be careful on the drive home. The thirty-five mile drive home.
She had already bought the fuel pump (which was four hundred dollars, for crying out loud). To take it to a shop the total for parts and labor would have been eight hundred.
So I get up early Saturday and I start to work on it. Okay, not really. I got up around eight am. I had intended to get up at six. I didn’t actually start on it until eleven.
To change a fuel pump in most modern cars, you have to take out the fuel tank. So, you have to jack the car up and then drop the tank down. I eventually got the car up on three jack stands: The back end raised up, and then the front of the side I had access to I raised so I had room to get under the car. The front left wheel was still on the ground, and I had it blocked.
Okay. So, to change a fuel pump you have to drop the gas tank, because the fuel pump sits inside the gas tank. It’s held up by four bolts, but that is typically not the problem. What *is* the problem is the other stuff connected to it: the gas lines, the return lines, the wire harness, and so forth.
The fuel-line related crap will be my death, if I’m lucky.
I did dick around quite a bit on this job. It shouldn’t have taken me this long–maybe my heart wasn’t really in it. After I agreed to do it on Friday, I made that call to my girlfriend to explain to her what I had agreed to do. She was cool with it. I suppose.
But I worked on it and worked on it, and took a break and worked on it some more, and took more breaks. I’ve skipped over a lot of what I did, partly because it was long and boring, and partly out of embarrassment over my incompetence. Here it was after 430 and I finally got the fuel tank down and out and completely separated from the car. By 530 I had the gas tank up on the tailgate of the truck so I could work on it, and had the old fuel pump removed. After only 6 1/2 hours, I was exactly at the half-way point, and ready to begin re-assembly. But–but it shouldn’t take as long to put it together as it did to take it apart. A big part of that was the learning curve: I was pretty experienced with this now. What possible curves could I be thrown?
BY eight pm that night, I was ready to call it quits. I was also ready to set the car on fire and climb inside it. Why would I do that? Why, to keep from getting mauled by bears, silly. Simple logic.
Things had not gone well.
The new fuel pump had gone easily into the gas tank. The gas tank was close to empty now, having gone through three separate siphoning sessions. I had five small gas gans with a combined 8 gallons in them. Now it was ready to go back in.
There are actually three pieces to this: the gas tank, the heat shield, and the brace. I don’t understand why they are three separate pieces, except perhaps to make my life more difficult. I believe everything happens for a reason, and this is the reason for most things.
I have to pry, bend, push, force, twist, and finagle the pieces up into almost-position, going around miscellaneous parts like the exhaust. Once in almost-position, I got the jack and the plywood to hold the tank while I fastened the bolts.
“Talk about ‘bolts.’”
Talk about bolts? Okay. Four bolts hold the contraption up. Two of them, toward the front of the vehicle, are easy to get to and don’t cause a problem. The other two, toward the back, are assholes that mock me with an arrogant smugness that I expect from metric bolts. Which these are.
They are in a position such that parts of the suspension apparatus blocks a direct path to them. I can’t go straight to them with a socket and extension.
I did finally find a way with a universal joint–a tool for sockets that swivels about in all directions like a sexually confused screwdriver. I get the tank attached. Things are moving along swimmingly. It’s about 630 now, and all I need to do now is attach all the little wires and hoses and connectors and things. Easy-peasy.
By 8 pm, I had more than given up. There is a level past demoralized. Three steps beyond having the wind taken from your sails. This was cellular defeat, a resignation on a glandular level.
I mean, how could–how does–why…why is this always my fate?
I started with what expected to be the hardest part, and at least I was right about that. The other parts were in plain sight, but the tube to the fuel filler and corresponding filler vent line were positioned in a slightly inaccessible area, because why make shit easy? In relative terms, the fill tube *was* easy, taking only 20 minutes of excrutiating and painful manipulation of a rubber tube onto a plastic circle.
Now for my descent into madness:
I would learn the name of the next part through my research online. It was the “filler vent line.” Obviously, the gas filler tube needs to be vented. Okay, then. I remember I had disconnected it, but I certainly don’t remember how, although I was certain there was a clip involved. This right here, this little U-shaped piece of plastic. It fits in the union somewhere–probably those little holes–and keeps it together. That makes sense. I’ve done this before.
Picture this: You’re laying on your back, looking up. That’s how ALL of this is. Straight up there is the gas tank, and the filler tube and the filler vent tube. They come from the gas tank, to your left, and go to your right and disappear. What is blocking your view of them is a large and immovable piece of the car’s suspension. I have no idea what it is, but I named it the “goddamn sonuvabitch.”
There is also a bar, or rod, that runs through there, that I’ve affectionately nicknamed “the other mother-fucker.”
Between the goddamn sonovabitch and the other mother-fucker I had an inch to play with. An inch in which to stick a finger, which almost an inch thick–and push a clip into a tiny hole.
My fingers are beat to hell right now. I tried to push the clip in. I tried to balance it between my fingertips. I tried a pair of pliers. I tried another pair of pliers. I tried these long, skinny tweezers I have. I really thought those were going to work.
I tried a ball of tape, stuck to the tweezers, to hold the clip in the right position. Didn’t work. I took a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil and forged it into a tool to hold the clip at the exact angle I needed, bent to go around the goddamn sonuvabitch and past the other mother-fucker.
None of it worked, until I did the last thing. That accomplished something.
The clip would occasionally fall out of whatever I had it in, trying to position it at this connector so I could push it in. It would fall, bounce off of my glasses and then hit the driveway, which I was laying on. I would pick it up, curse, and try again. In fact, I was cursing a lot. I was cursing so much that I had given up on American and had switched to Mother England.
“Bloody ‘ell! Limey cunt! Bugger off!”
All of this until the last time it fell. After the last time it fell, I felt a sense of calm and serenity. Because, after the last time it fell, I was done for the day.
It was almost 8pm, and starting to get dark. I had already run the extension cord and the trouble light out to go under the car with me. The concrete was no longer blisteringly hot, and although I had been protected for the most part by lying on sheets of cardboard, my legs and shins were scraped up and red from traversing the concrete, and the back of my head was tender and sore. I had no idea if it was sunburn or friction burn, from dragging it on the concrete as I moved about under the car like a large, tempermental salamander. Without a tail.
And so it was that I was making my last heroic effort to insert this clip into this connector, and it slipped from my grasp and it fell. It didn’t land on my face. It disappeared.
I put my hand up between the goddamn sonuvabitch and that other mother-fucker and felt around on top of the goddamn sonuvabitch. I didn’t feel the clip, but I felt something else.
A hole. Fuck me.
I crawled out and got out of the way, and then I took the light and looked around on the ground carefully to be sure it hadn’t fallen somewhere else. No such luck.
The little bitch of a clip fell into a hole in the top of the goddamn sonuvabitch, and there was no way in hell I was going to get it out. I am done.
I make that call to the ex. Yeah, she has to work Sunday morning, but she can get a ride. I promise to get it to her while she is at work.
But, of course, I’ve broken promises to her before…
Sunday morning I wanted to get up very early and start on it. However, Saturday the thing had beaten me to death physically as well as spiritually, and I wasn’t anxious to climb back into the ring with it. It was going to be a hot day today, also; Saturday I had been lucky that it topped out at 90 degrees.
I decided to have a look at it in the light first, and then head up to NAPA auto parts.
Now, the difference between auto parts stores may not be obvious to everyone–especially women. But let me tell you that the difference is as nuanced and as important as the difference between, say, different clothing stores that a man might look at and say, “There’s no difference.”
If you just need some shit for your car, go to Autozone. Or Advanced, whichever you happen to be pointed in the general direction of. If they don’t have it at one of those, try O’Reilly’s.
If you need something hard to find, or you need a question answered, go to NAPA. That’s where I went.
One guy working, and he’s busy. I look around, then go stand in line. When he gets to me, I explain what I need. He takes me to the end of an aisle that I guess I didn’t look at. I’ll start here, and figure out what I need. Thanks.
I sat on the floor for about 15 minutes. I’m working on a Chevy, but what I need looks to be marked Ford. Plus there are different sizes, and the differences aren’t very big. If I had the one I lost, I’d know what size I need.
If I had the one I lost, I wouldn’t need one. Logic is a bitch.
I considered buying a package of all three sizes. Find the one I need. Make it work. Fuckin’ aye. Or…maybe there’s a better way. On my way out I said to him, “I’m gonna go look again at what I have–I’ll be back.”
My plan (yes, odd to think that I actually have one, isn’t it?) is to grab the camera and the light, get underneath the car, pull the line back and try to get a good picture of it so I can figure out what kind of clip it takes. Also, my plan is to undo the bolts holding the tank and let it drop out of the way–maybe I can get my hand up in there between the tank and that other mother-fucker, and find the clip. At the very least, this room should allow me easier access, and I’ll be able to put the clip in.
So I do all of this–get the jack, undo the tank and lower it, get the camera and the light. I’m all up in there now, and I can see, and I have room–this is going to work. The two line pieces are together, but I know they aren’t connected. I go to pull them apart to see–
They won’t come apart. Well, wait, now.
I put the camera down, and hang the light. I have both hands free and try again. THE MOTHER-FUCKING-GODDAMN SONUVABITCH FUCKING ASSHOLE FUCKING BLOODY CUNT MOTHER OF ASSHOLE BASTARDS is connected. Without a clip.
I hate epiphanies like this, when they come at my expense. It’s like Bryan from yesterday morning left, and left the other Bryan to struggle with the shit all by himself. Then–now–Bryan from Saturday morning shows back up with some coffee, acting all non-chalant, and has to explain to the clueless Bryan what happened.
“Oh, yeah, dude–don’t you remember? That connector for the–what did you call it?”
“Filler tube vent line.”
“Yeah. I left before you looked that up. The connector for that didn’t have a clip. You don’t remember?”
“No, asshole. I showed up after you did that.”
“Oh, yeah. Right. Yeah, no clip. You push the line in slightly, and squeeze the outside of the connector, and it slides out. Easy-peasy.”
“I will rip out your fucking pancreas right now and eat it.”
“Why didn’t you just call me?”
I still wasn’t completely convinced. After all, I am a liar. I pulled on the connection again, from both ends. A little play, as stated by spec, but connected. “I’ll be Darwin’s adopted sister’s bastard child.”
I started to put it all back together, while pondering this issue: I had that clip for *some* reason. It *does* go somewhere.
Although it looked to be easy going the rest of the way, I wasn’t going to get my hopes up for any reason–because both the car and my other self conspire against me.
I got the tank bolted back up. Again.
It looked to be just a couple of electrical connectors that snap back together, and these two gas lines. Hey, one has a clip and the other one doesn’t. Just drill a hole in my ribcage and fuck me in it. Tendlerly. Make me feel like a woman.
The connectors look identical, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be. I took the clip out of the one that had a clip. Now I have something to match it up to. I went back to NAPA.
When I pull up, there are no customers. The one guy working by himself is having a smoke outside. He starts to put it out. Pointing to my own smoke, I say, “Hey, you don’t have to rush off on my account.”
While we finished our fags, I gave him the abridged version of my sad story. “So now I have a clip to match to.”
We look, but we don’t find exactly what we need in the packages. However, above them are pieces of gas line with connectors, with clips. They range in price from 16.99 to 24.99. He said, “I think this is the one you need.”
He takes it up to the counter, opens the package, and pries it out. It is an exact match. Wow.
He said, “Here, just take it. I’ll write this off as a defective return.”
“Really? God love ya! Thanks, man! Thanks!”
I was still too…cautious–or skittish, actually–to get my hopes up for the entire project, but this part was going well. Back under the car, I put it all back together. Okay, then. I pulled all the tools out from under the car…but there was no way in Somalia I was going to put them away just yet.
My girlfriend came out and we did the test–I listened at the gas tank while she turned it over. Yes, I hear the fuel pump. Of course, it didn’t start and I didn’t expect it to because all the gas was sitting outside the tank in my gas cans. I poured the gas back in the tank.
Then I go to start it. I don’t expect it to start right away because it needs to crank to get fuel back into its system–
It started up before I could finish that thought. Awesome.
Okay, now I can take it down off the jack stands. And take a shower. And then return it. It was now about 1230. I had fucked with it for about three hours today, total. Plus twelve hours yesterday, unless I’m bad at math. Wait. Nine hours yesterday. If I had been smart, I would have been done after 5 hours.
Hell, if I had been smart, I wouldn’t have done the job in the first place, now, would I?
The book says this is a two hour job, maybe three. That’s being a professional mechanic with all the tools and equipment available. I’m not a professional. All I’ve shown is that tenacity is not always a virtue.
I returned the car to my ex, and she was very happy, very grateful. I guess that’s worth something. I know I saved her about 400 bucks, and that’s a lot to people like us in days like these, when we live not quite paycheck to paycheck. I’d rather have her on my side, have her cut me some slack when it comes to child support and so forth. Maybe earn some respect from the kids for it. I don’t know. I don’t know why I did it. I didn’t really think I was that good of a person–
And I still don’t.