Saturday, September 22, 2012

Rookie Mistakes

In Mechanic Years I am a newborn. Working on individual cars such as my van and the grand marquis and a saab here and there really means I own the tools to work on cars but the skills will be sporadic. It's a dirty job made more dirty by lack of training and flawed procedure. I proudly made my own gasket for the oil pick up tube and installed it to torque spec but after installing the engine and nearly finishing the whole reassembly I looked at the gasket material and thought, "Did I cut a hole in the middle?" And I knew 99% sure that I had totally fit the gasket on there and trimmed it and then bolted the pick up tube to the engine galley without actually cutting a hole in the middle so the pick up tube could act as a tube. Essentially I had put a gasket on in order to ensure no oil returned to lubricate the pistons and connecting rods, ensuring engine failure and death in maybe 40 miles. This is why I like buying real parts but they insisted any gasket material would do. But just be sure to make the gasket look like the stock gasket and not a piece of felt covering the hole. Oh, the hours I just spent in dirty oil bonding with this 1999 Pontiac Firebird.

I listen to soft christian rock because it is commercial free, as long as you don't count Jesus as a commercial. And I managed to pull off the brackets and starter to reach the oil pan but I couldn't actually get the oil pan off. I have no idea if it's possible to remove the oil pan without lifting the engine up. I doubt it. But I moved the oil pan to one side and could just fit my fingers inside (all while on my bony pelvic hips grinding to arthritic dust in the transmission oil that leaked from the disconnected drive shaft (that we reinstalled today with much trauma) and my shoulders trembling in pain and sweat lingering with oil in my weeping eyes. I figured with my luck I would disconnect the oil pick up tube and there would be a hole in the gasket, but no, I had forgotten to cut the hole but I had no room at all to fit a wrench and since I couldn't get the oil pan off I really tested the Oggy Ingenuity but first cable tying the pick up tube to a transmission line so it would not fall into the oil pan, and then I used an old carpenter technique where you put a bolt in a piece of cardboard so the cardboard holds it while you turn it and I covered the oil pan gasket with cardboard in case the bolt fell from my exhausted fingers. I don't know what it is called when you take extremely smart precautions to make sure a stupid mistake doesn't turn into a gigantic project into a monumental complete reversal of 20 hours of work. Better late than never?

I told myself in my head between curses and tears of agony and desperation, "Oggy, this is a laboratory and you are gaining experience and experience is hard won but lasts forever and this pain is worth it because you are gaining knowledge and skills while you merely lost 4 hours that would have found you picking your nose and playing guitar. Stop being a pussy."

But another part of me was saying, "This was so easy to avoid and it was the first thing you did and you can not ethically continue working on stranger's cars who rely on your abilities. Only the fact you saw the gasket material avoided a total disaster and engine failure. It's one thing to fail to get the car to run. It's another thing to accidentally sabotage a car that will only run for a day or two before destruction."

But this is the real world and even Chevy announced a recall of vehicles that indicate you are in Park but are still in Drive. That's a major mistake that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix and it was probably something simple at the very beginning that led to the problem. So, I persevere. This is a dirty business and this won't be the last mistake I make. How else do Men reach the stars?

Reassembly involved curses and invocations as the whole procedure had to be reversed in the dark on my bony pelvis. I finished and broke my arm patting myself on the back. Then the mechanic next door offered me a beer and this is how it all begins because I was actually stumbling in the dark as stray dogs barked at my swollen pride and the mechanic handed me a bud light and the next thing I knew I was helping him change vacuum lines on his Toyota truck and the Firebird incident faded into memory of alcoholic amnesia.

"Wait until tomorrow," he said, "We're gonna do some drinking."

And the Toyota revved in the desert night. I went to grab another beer in the dark and ran smack into a huge side view mirror separating my collar bone as the hyenas laughed at my misery. Kids played tag in the dark. I lay on my back, reeking of oil, with the shiny constellations mapping my madness. There is a hole in the pick up tube gasket. That's all that matters.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.