Fun with Cars

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I’ve probably mentioned it here before, but I am not a car guy.  By that, I mean to say that you will not find me changing the oil on my car on the weekend, or rotating things or torquing something.  I don’t torque.

This, I am aware, is a glaring hole in my manly education.  It was just never something that I was ever interested in learning.

So, I get my oil changed regularly, I check things like fluid levels and tire pressure, but that is it.  Other than that, whatever the car mechanics tell me to do I do.

When things happen that are outside of the normal, I’m really out of my element.

Also, when I do go and get my cars scheduled maintenance stuff, I feel like a kid being schooled by an annoyed parent/teacher.

Anyway.  Couple weeks back, I was driving through a parking lot, heading back to the dayjob after lunch, and there was a very large puddle in the road ahead – all of it snow melt.  I went through the puddle and came to a red light.  My car acted weird.  By weird, it felt like I lost power / the engine had quit.  So I put it in park, shut it off, then turned it back on.  The light turned green and I moved forward.  I was turning left.  Halfway through the intersection, my power steering vanished.

Ever try to drive a car without power steering when you’re used to power steering?

Essentially, I was pulling the wheel with two hands, cranking it hard.  I made the turn but knew I couldn’t keep going very far.  Up ahead on the right was a little driveway so I took it – turning in was a chore!

I was behind Office Max in their loading dock area.  I shut the engine off, turned it back on.  Had power steering for a second, then it vanished again – the gauges lit up with SERVICE ENGINE SOON and CHECK GAUGES all in red.

Red is not a good color.  Red is the color for PAY ATTENTION!

The problem is, opening up the hood of the car wouldn’t do much for me.  I don’t know what to look for.  So I called my uncle.  he said there’s usually a belt that controls power steering.  Okay.  I’ve only ever seen one belt in my engine, a really long one.  “Serpentine belt?” he asked.  “Yeah!” I answered.  He told me to check it and I did.  This is what I saw:

The belt should be not be loose like that

Notice the two…uh…round…thingies, in the upper left corner of the picture?  Well, the belt should be looping through those.  This was when I realized it was not good.  Being me, I took a couple more pictures.

Again, shows how loose the belt is

That one’s a little closer shot from the same angle.  This one’s from the other side:

Eeep.

Now, I may not be a car guy, but I am smart enough to KNOW I am not a car guy.  So I have road side assistance!  I called, they came and towed me to a nearby Sears Service Center where they discovered that a Belt Tension Assembly had broken.  I’d gone in thinking maybe the belt had broken – a $30 fix.  With the Assembly broken, it was a $360 fix.

Ugh.

Took em a couple of hours (they had to flush the coolant system because coolant flows through the assembly? Who designed THAT?) to get my car up and running again.  Oddly, I can feel a difference when driving the car now.  The engine is running smoother.  Obviously, there was a problem and I either got used to it or the change was so subtle, I didn’t realize it was happening.

Fixed now, though…

~P