Home » When Wrenching Goes So Bad You Sideline Your Car For Six Months: COTD

When Wrenching Goes So Bad You Sideline Your Car For Six Months: COTD

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Wrenching is often fun and can save you a ton of dough. Then, there are times when a small mistake turns what could have been a painless repair into your worst nightmare. Earlier today, I wrote a Wrenching Wednesday about the best lessons you’ve learned from your own silly wrenching mistakes. One story stood out.

If you haven’t noticed, I don’t pull COTD from Autopian Asks or Wrenching Wednesday. I don’t have a specific reason for it other than the fact that I want to highlight comments from pieces that anyone can read, and not just members (though if you want to become a member, here’s how you join the party). Anyway, the exception to the rule is this story from Random Shots — a reply to our members-only “Wrenching Wednesday” question today, which was ” This story had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish:

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Recently, I developed a water leak on my MK6 GTI which I thought was the water pump (it was not) which almost turned into an ordeal.

One night I got home and found coolant dripping on the ground. Did a pressure check, which held, and saw nothing obvious but after a few days I could see coolant seeping from the water pump. Typical VW problem for this era so I bought a water pump and related parts to get the job done.

I am a big “while I am in there” kind of person and decided to swap out the seal on the balance shaft that runs the water pump. There is a left handed thread bolt that holds everything in place which I was able to get out relatively easy and popped out the seal which was also pretty easy. The FSM recommended a special seal installation tool, which I bought, and I set out to install the seal. The left handed thread bolt is known to snap if you look it at funny so I bought two new bolts of which one was just to install the seal with the special tool. You tighten the left handed thread bolt and the tool pushes the seal until it reaches where it needs to be.

Well, being a goober, I over tightened the bolt and it snapped off. Anyone who has ever snapped a bolt knows the dread that you just screwed up. After walking up and down the driveway swearing at myself and feeling like I was going to throw up I steady myself and began to research how to get this broken bolt out.

Now typically, I use a left handed drill bit and drill until the screw comes out but no dice this time. There was only a 1.25 inch gap to insert a drill and a right angle adapter was to wide. I spent some time online and saw someone had gotten it out by JB welding a bolt to the broken piece but I had no luck.

Resigned to the fact that I needed to remove the balance shaft, from the front side of the engine, I began reading the FSM and discovered that it was essentially a timing chain job (which I had paid $2k for a shop to do the previous year). No effing way I was going to do that job or pay someone else to do it. Oh, and the balance shaft? One time use. Once you remove it, the FSM states you have to replace it. Balance shafts are only available from VW and they are sold in pairs ($800). I did not have the time to do it (work and family) and my pride stopped me from taking it to a shop to fix it. So the car sat for six months in my garage.

When time permitted I looked for alternatives and began to look at the problem from a different perspective. I needed the right tool for the job at hand. A few hours of online research later I found an aerospace tool company that made just what I needed. A slim right angle offset drill adapter that could get into this 1.25 inch gap. I ordered the adapter and different size drill bits ($200) and waited for the new tools to arrive.

The big day came and I hooked up the adapter to my power drill. I could not see the center of the broken bolt so closed my eyes and went full send. 15 seconds later the broken bolt came out and the relief nearly overwhelmed me. “I did a thing!” as Jeremy Clarkson would say.

With that disaster averted, I finished the water pump replacement and bolted everything back into its place proud of myself for fixing the problem that I had created. Took the car for a drive and the car leaked coolant from the same…damn…spot.

Turns out one of coolant hoses had fatigued and would sporadically lose its ability to maintain its seal on the water pump. All that work and it was a simple coolant hose that needed to be replaced.

Now, let’s take a look at Cold Start, where Jason pointed out how embarrassing it was that Subaru sold cars telling drivers “car is equipped for installation of optional A/C.” From commenter Trust Doesn’t Rust:

Clearly Subaru should have put that disclaimer where the PRNDL indicator would have been.

(This is a reference to Jason’s story from the other day titled “The Switch To Floor Shifters Led To A Bunch Of Hilariously Bad Car Dashboards.”)

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Have a great evening, everyone.

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Dudeoutwest
Dudeoutwest
1 month ago

I took my CB750F completely apart to do the top end and fix the second gear dogs in the transmission. I sold it like 20 years later, still in boxes.

*sigh*

It goes like that sometimes. But the guy I sold it to built it into a pretty badass restomod a la the HRC Spencer CB900 AMA super bike of the era, so there’s that.

Mike B
Mike B
1 month ago

Oof, I feel this pain.

In summer of 2020 I was DD’ing my ’00 Firebird Formula as a summer car. In late Aug of that year the front brakes started making noise. I parked it at my parent’s house 30 miles away and told myself I’d get to it soon. Late October I finally get to it. The pass caliper fit on a little tight, but I got it back together. Figured it just needed a few pedal applications to sort itself out. Nope, I try to move it and the brake is locked. Okay, need a new caliper. That now sat till the following spring. I replaced the caliper but realized that the tires were looking dangerously dry rotted. In the meantime, the DMV had cancelled my registration because I hadn’t gotten it inspected soon enough.

I had also realized that it appeared to have a blown head gasket, at operating temp there was some steam coming out where the head met the block and intake on the front right. I have a suspicion that my dad started it to let it run to help me out but forgot about it and it may have overheated. It generally didn’t have an overheating problem, but then again F-Bodies generally don’t like to sit and idle for extended time, so I was always careful not to do that. I had told him not to worry about it, but he loves to tinker and can’t help himself. My bad for leaving the keys.

Long story short, going on 4 years later the car is sitting under a cover in my aunt’s garage, not having been started in 2 years now, because I was too lazy to promptly do a brake job.

I actually feel awful about that, when I put it there it was only supposed to be for the winter of ’22, but I never got back to it. I hope it’s not too late to get it running again without issues, with that damn E10 gas in it.

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago

Noticed that one of the valve covers was leaking on my olds 442 455. So picked up some gaskets and went to work on on a nice sunny Sunday afternoon. Get the valve cover off and check the rockers. Hmm one seems a bit loose. Spin engine over to pump up the lifters, check again, and still loose. Check the other side. Same thing except two are loose. Drop header, pull manifold, then a head. Damn, collapsed lifter. Check other side same thing , two lifters. Notice some scoring on cylinder walls. More disassmbly, cam seems to be wrecked. Argg, getting late. Put everthing away. Next weekend back into it, pull engine, some rod and main journals scored and pan has way too much metal particles in it. The engine by the way is less than a year old. Order some parts, backorder on many. Block and head teardown to send to machine shop for machining. Next weekend cleaning and tidying, might as well check carb. Rebuild it. Check transmission and converter. Trans pan has filings. Clean, new filter. Order more parts for engine. Next weekend might as well check brakes, rebuild em. Differential. Yay, it’s ok. But one of the u joints bad. Order more parts. Machine shop going to be six weeks. Three months later, engine back together. Put everything in, presatrt, fire it, all good, put it in gear. Horrible grinding wiring noise. Next weekend, drop trans pan. Something has disintegrated. Pack up trans to go to shop. Trans will be ready in a month. Everything back together and working two weeks later. All runs well, but winter is nearly here and the car is going to storage until the spring.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
1 month ago

I feel like my panic response to a 5.4 Triton launching a spark plug fall in this class. I immediately ordered a head and gaskets, thinking a proper repair had failed. Turns out the previous owner had “fixed” 4 plugs with chaser inserts instead of the proper solid insert. So I could have osed a Cal-Van kit and does it for $500 in weekend instead of $1000 in parts and tools and 4 weekends. OTOH I have 2 rebuilt heads and a set of timing tools. I’m not counting $120 for the cordless impact driver. I did count several 7 and 8mm sockets, because one was broken and one was lost, apparently 8mm is the new 10mm. Slightly irritating because I have extra 10mm and 13mm from years of wrenching German stuff

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
1 month ago

Any of us with a motorcycle as a ‘summer vehicle’ knows the pain of parking it for a short while and you’ll get back to fixing it properly and, before you know it, you’ve had a few kids, filled the garage with crap, and looked in the back and wondered why you’ve not ridden a motorcycle in the last decade.

Thankfully I am not that person, I came prepared with multiple motorcycles as backup for such a scenario. But I would look sadly towards the ‘parked one’ as I took another into the office.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 month ago

Man, we’ve all been there, haven’t we?

My GT6 suddenly developed a problem where it wouldn’t rev over 3000rpm. I tore the carbs apart, checked the timing multiple times, had the club over for donuts to help investigate, went through two different fuel pumps. Missed two autocross events in the process.
Turned out I had one (or both) of the air filters on upside-down and it was blocking the vent to the diaphragm. D’oh!

My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
1 month ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Australian air filters. They get you every time.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago

But, that roller coaster!
We all know the feeling
And the hulk lurking there accusingly…then the spark!
”Go, man,; GO!”

then, “Aw, fuck…”
and, then … redemption!

clearly pathos bested bathos yesterday

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

(meant to be in reply to Phantom Pedal, damnit)

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
1 month ago

> I am a big “while I am in there” kind of person

Millions of pages of comedy, tragedy, and law books have been written based on that premise.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago

Aw man.
I thought IRegertNothing, Esq. clearly won COTD with the Corinthian leather Supreme Court judge comment.
This shit is rigged.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 month ago

Yeah it is. Wait.,, are we talking about the Supreme Court or COTD?

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Yes

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
1 month ago

Thanks, but Random Shots had a pretty cool story. I can sympathize with them because I also had a 6 month ordeal trying to fix a broken car. The main difference is that it was my daily, so I had to nervously drive that basket case to work 5 times a week.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago

Fair

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
1 month ago

I agree. If it pleases the powers that be, I relinquish my honorable mention and bestow it to IRegertNothing, Esq.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago

Nah, I get it.
Keepin it apolitical.
(praise jebus)
I meant that more as a shout out than a complaint.

Fix It Again Tony
Fix It Again Tony
1 month ago

For some reason I don’t feel bad paying $$$ for some obscure tool that does the job, even if I only need to use it once.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
1 month ago

Because if you’re successful, that tool paid for itself in shop labour not-spent.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
1 month ago

I know all too well the pain of “fix it til it’s broken.” The kicker is when the root cause of the operation was something simple that should have been considered first. My heart goes out to my fellow wrenches.

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