The Wrenching Continues

by Andy

I like working on cars, really I do. But this weekend, I have really had enough. I don’t know if this is a “family” website or not, so I am going to withhold the raw words that express my frustration. Instead, I’ll stick to the facts.

Fact #1: My Dad has been incredibly imperative to this entire process. If I did not have his help, I don’t think the car would be ready in time, or I may have even given up. Thank you Dad.

Fact #2: Having a loving and supporting wife is extremely important. I have asked a lot of her lately, and she has always stepped up to the plate and supported me. This weekend especially, with her training for the Avon walk taking up a lot of her time and energy. After a 17 mile walk on Saturday, and another 8 on Sunday, she still found the energy to make an awesome dinner for me while I cursed away in my garage.

Fact#3: Just when you think you are almost done, you find out you were really frickin wrong. And I’d like to expand on this fact a bit. Oh, and from here on out, it may not be family safe.

On Saturday morning, my Dad and I began what we planned would be an aggressive but light-hearted attack on completing the ChumpCar. The list was not long: Put some stickers on, get the new rotors and brake pads put on, install an oil cooler and cooling fan, re-wire the fog lights with a disconnect, paint the wheels white, and get the new tires mounted. Oh, and change the oil.

We started of with the vinyl Subaru World Rally Team logos. They were kind of a pain, but eh, they are stuck on there now.

So then we started with the oil cooler, and things really went smoothly. It IS tough to fit a cooler and fan between the radiator and bumper, and we had to remove the radiator, and drain a gallon of coolant onto the garage floor. But we just applied some kitty litter. With everything plumbed and wired, I started the car and walked around to the front to check for leaks. And oh, I found a fucking leak alright. By the time I got to the front of the car, I had already lost about two quarts onto the garage floor, mixed in with the cat litter and coolant. We applied more cat litter, pulled off the filter bypass adapter, and found that the stock oil filter hadn’t sealed properly. SO, we went to the auto-part store and tried random filters against the adapter until we found a match. A Bosch 3320. No idea what car it is for, but it works for us. With the oily mess out of the way, we backed the car out a bit and cleaned the motor oil/coolant/cat litter clay off the floor, and started on the fog lights.

The fog light wiring was really a breeze, because I didn’t do it. I let my dad do it while Lauren and I took our dogs to the “doggy day care” for an interview. Then we ate our neighbor’s food in celebration of their daughter’s graduation from high school. And afterwards,  I changed back into my dirty work clothes and we continued.

My dad was able to get two wheels painted so we at least have one complete set that are white now. Yay. With that done, we decided to swap out the brake rotors and pads. The new rotors looked awesome. But the new pads, they didn’t fit. They were the wrong ones entirely. Shit. So the new rotors came off, and the original pads and rotors went back on. Can’t wait to figure that out later.

With all four wheels on the ground, and a rough day drawing to an end, I figured it would be nice to take the car for a little spin. During that little spin, the steering locked up several times, and the motor hesitated uncontrollably at low rpm. WTF and FML. By now, my Dad and I really had enough. I called my friends to flake out on our plans to go shooting Sunday, and agreed with my Dad that we should address these little issues on Sunday. I got cleaned up, ate a quick dinner, and went to a neighbors house for some poker and beer.

The following morning, I woke early, on a mission to find answers to our problems on the internet. I printed out several documents, schematics and diagrams, and was armed and ready when my Dad arrived at 9am. First priority was the engine hesitation. We worked over the engine bay with a fine tooth comb looking for loose wires, vacuum line leaks, and disconnected breather lines. After about 30 mins, I found a wire dangling down by the exhaust, disconnected from who knows where. After ANOTHER 20-30 mins of searching, I found it! The wire plugged into a um, FICD solenoid something or other. Hell if I know. But it fixed ONE problem. After another hair raising drive with intermittent power steering, the car went back into the garage and on to jack stands.

We tried to bleed the power steering system, but found that even with the front wheels off the ground, the steering was binding. We vacuumed all of the fluid out of the lines and once that was done, the steering rack felt smooth as butter. That led us to believe it was the power steering pump, but we really didn’t want to count out the steering rack just yet. After some research on line, and discovery that the power steering pump was almost $200 and the rack over $300, I found a you-pull-it yard open on sunday, and they even had several Subarus! Never mind that the yard was a 45min one-way drive. We gathered up all the tools we thought we might need and headed out. To make this long story somewhat shorter, we pulled a power steering pump out of a 1997 Impreza Outback, and we ripped, tore, hammered, pryed, screamed, and willed a steering rack out of a heavily rusted 1995 Subaru Outback. Out the door cost was $81.00. Much cheaper.

OK, now! Lets start easy right? We took the power steering pump out of my car, and put our junk-yard special in its place. Spilled some fluid onto the engine and floor, applied kitty litter, and fired up the car. No dice. The steering was still binding. SHIT! We looked at the rusty crusty steering rack from the Outback, and ALMOST gave up right there. But after a short pep-talk, my dad began cleaning the rusty crusty, while I took the defective steering rack out of the ChumpCar. Soo, off with the wheels, front sway bar, exhaust headers, and tie rod ends. I then disconnected the power steering lines, drained more fluid onto myself and the floor, applied kitty litter and continued. Getting the now cleaner rusty crusty steering rack INTO the car was a lot harder than it should have been. But after over and hour of anger and rage, it was finally in, and the lower power steering lines connected. So I put the exhaust, sway bar, tie rod ends, and wheels back on the car. Oh and my Dad added almost a quart of fluid which promptly drained ALL OVER the engine and floor. We had forgotten to reinstall the lower power steering pump return line. We connected that, applied kitty litter, and got the car back on the ground. And it fucking worked!!! Our $81 power steering system worked! Beautifully!!!

But wait, what’s THAT noise? My dad couldn’t hear it, but I kepted hearing this terrible vibrating whooshing grinding sound when the engine was revved. I insisted that we put the car up on stands and try to isolate the noise. After about 15 mins of frustration and fear, I found that the front O2 sensor had worked loose. I tightened that down while burning my finger, then took the car for another drive. Power steering was still working flawlessly, and the terrible noise was gone. But the engine hesitation is back.

I didn’t tell my Dad. By then, it was 7pm, my wife had cooked dinner, and I don’t think any of us had the mental capacity to think, care, cry or yell. So I pulled the car into the garage, set up a fan to direct the burning power steering fluid smoke out of the garage, and called it a night.

And now, I am going to bed.


- Andy

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