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Monday, March 14, 2016

The Oil Change

Good evening, dear readers. I hope your Monday has gone well.

Today was a much needed day spent working on the car. Since we purchased it last week and have been driving the car around town on errands and appointments, the scope of repairs needed has widened significantly. Right now, the high priority repairs involve replacing a back brake, as one of the shoes has broken off inside and makes a loud banging "GA-DUNK" sound every time the wheel turns (these are old-school drum brakes, not modern disc brakes. I actually thought it was the tire going flat the first time I heard the banging coming from the rear, only to find the tire was intact and holding air), and replacing the seatbelts since they're rotten and falling apart. As bad as limited functionality seatbelts are, the brake bothers me more than anything else because brakes are what actually stop a car from moving! Fortunately, the other brakes work, but they're not in great shape. I suspect the seller we bought the car from had the vehicle in parts and then haphazardly put it back together again when he wanted to sell it. It's drive-able, but the seller admitted he wasn't much of a mechanic.

As we are able to, repairs need to be made to the wiring in the instrument panel (it only has partial power) and the gas tank since we discovered yesterday that it leaks at the seal. There is also a tune-up in order. But thanks to a paperwork screwup from the insurance company, our payout check to make these repairs is being delayed. This pissed my husband off mightily since we need the money to make our car really safe for the road. But until the paperwork gets sorted out and fixed to the point where our payout can be sent, we'll do whatever rigging we can get away with to create some semblance of safety because we really need our car. This is what happens when you live in poverty in America. Your car may not be considered "safe" for the road by conventional standards, but you don't have much of a choice about whether or not to drive it because the alternatives are either nonexistant or too costly.

Time to go to work

Since there's not much we can do without funds right now, we did our first oil change to kick start the tune-up (the seller, either through neglect or out of charity, provided us with parts like sparkplugs, hoses, clamps, etc to do a tune-up). My hubby bought a five gallon jug of blended heavy 10W-40 motor oil for the summer, and a new fuel filter. We also got a six-ton jack since our cholomobile is higher up off the ground and heavier than our Oldsmobile. Thanks to all the owners manuals and diagrams my husband has been downloading and meticulously studying in his characteristic Asperger's zeal, he knew right where the oil pan was and where to set the safety jacks in the front and sides of the car. I told him I'd do the work, but he was to point out what was what and where it was. He agreed to this instruction since learning how to repair and maintain my own automobile is a long-term goal of mine which he wholeheartedly supports.

Hubby setting up the jacks and getting ready to pump up the car

The first step in any oil change is to raise the car. People who DIY and can afford it, use a ramp. Others, like me, use jacks. Jacks aren't as safe as ramps, but they'll suffice. I did have a bit of a scare when I was pumping up the six-ton jack and the car slipped off of it. I was not under the car because it was not at an adequate height for me to squeeze under yet, but as soon as I noticed the wheels turn towards me I rolled out of the way as fast as I could as the jack fell and the car settled on all the safety jacks we'd set up. After my hubby lowered the jack, he reset it up again and resumed lifting the car, sending me around the raise the safety jacks as the car's level increased. With the amount of strength needed to lift and pump jacks, I can understand now why auto repairs are more typically considered a man's work, given that men are physically stronger than women. But, it doesn't excuse me from not knowing how its done since I don't trust that any man I may get involved with after my hubby dies will know anything about fixing cars in the first place! It took my own brother getting several flat tires before he learned how to change them instead of waiting for a tow truck to arrive.

Channeling my inner Freddie Mercury. I've only unscrewed an oil pan twice in my life, neither time have I lost the bolt plug. Booyah!

It actually took a second for me to find where the oil pan and the bolt holding it closed were. For whatever reason, Chrysler designed the bolt to be on the ass-end of the pan, facing the rear of the vehicle. Even our Oldsmobile's oil pan had a bolt that was easier to access than this one (it was also in the back, but the pan was closer to the front bumper)! My hubby used his socket wrench to start turning the bolt and let me finish twisting it off with my hand. I'm getting better about it, but once again, I had to brave my anxiety about going under a car and having 4200 lbs of steel death looming inches above the upper half of my body. But, I victoriously emerged holding the greasy bolt and let the nasty dirty oil pour into the drain pan underneath. It was clear the car's oil hadn't been changed in a while, given how little oil there was (about a gallon's worth) and how black it was.

It's so empowering to be able to do something and say with pride "I did that!", even if it's something small like successfully draining a car's oil pan

Unfortunately, I had to take a break from working on the car because the baby began fussing and would not stop until I came and picked her up. She then refused to let me put her back down and resume working, so I just took the new oil filter out of its box and got it ready for my husband to oil up and install. The oil filter in the cholomobile is actually much easier to access than the one in the Oldsmobile. This one is in the front and installed straight up. The oil filter in the Oldsmobile was installed at an odd angle, which made accessing and removing it somewhat difficult.

Finally, it was time to put the new oil in. My hubby got his funnel and with one hand holding the baby and the other holding the jug, I poured in the new oil. Eventually, I had him take over holding the baby when my arm started to hurt from the weight of the oil. I poured the entire contents of the jug into the oil reservoir. You could tell the car needed that.

Despite her cherubic smile, the baby did NOT appreciate me putting her in the walker. I didn't mind letting her play in the grass, I just didn't want her to crawl under the car while we were working on it.

Eventually, I had to stop working for good and take the baby inside because the setting sun meant it was getting cooler outside and she began to fuss again. My husband finished by topping up the fluids and putting a bit of leak stop fluid into the radiator to at least temporarily stop a worn freezer plug from leaking water.

We're done for now, but sooner or later, the spark plugs need to be examined. Hubby heard a knocking in the engine which indicated that a spark plug was misfiring. We'll look at it tomorrow when it's daylight. I also want to have a look at the starter because whenever my hubby starts the car up in the morning, it splutters and coughs. He sometimes has to turn the ignition a few times and goose the gas pedal before the engine starts to sound normal. He says its a normal Chrysler engine's response to cold (something about the choke?), but I want him to have a look and be extra sure.

But to end on a pleasant note, a few of our neighbors passing by stopped to look at our car. Our neighbor across the street actually came over and chatted with us for a bit. He works at a local gas station, but his father was a race car driver in Mexico so he grew up learning all about cars and how to work on them. He complemented us on the car and how it sounded as well as how much he hated new cars because of how complicated they were to work on. He also told my husband about how his gas station was in desperate need of new employees because even though he wasn't supposed to, he had to work nights six days a week because there was no one else to work those hours. My husband asked our neighbor to bring an application so that he could fill it out. After all these years, he may finally get a stable, paying job to help pay our bills and keep a roof over our heads.

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