Monday, March 9, 2009

My AutoBiography, Part 1: Whatayamean, Water Doesn't Compress?

In a nearly-shameless ripoff of tribute to Paul Niedermeyer's Auto-Biography series on The Truth About Cars, I've decided to chronicle the vehicular history that's led me to where I am today (and where I'd like to be tomorrow).

The combination of good grades and wealthy parents lead me to a lifted 1991 Jeep Wrangler for a first car. With the 4.0L I-6, 4.56:1 gears and 32" tires, the thing was the 0-40 drag champ and pretty capable say nothing of its popularity with the ladies.

Awww Yeahhh

Unfortunately, the nut behind the wheel wasn't really up to the challenge of a certain bumper-deep water obstacle at the local semi-legal 4-wheeling destination. It turns out the YJ Wrangler has a cold-air intake that pulls in from below the headlights, rather than the near-hood-level that one might expect on an off-road vehicle.

It also turns out that water doesn't compress.

Now I know that if your engine dies due to water intake, you should pull your spark plugs and crank the water out. At the time, I just cranked it. It turns out the OEM Jeep starter has enough torque to bend the connecting rods in this situation.

Nearly $4000 and a new Mopar remanufactured engine later, and I needed a job.

Goodyear Shirt

Being a car fan and possessing enough skills to remove and re-install bolts myself, I got a job at the local Goodyear Service center. I worked not-quite 40 hours a week mounting tires, changing oil and delivering parts and customers over the southwest Bay Area.

That job was pivotal in turning me from a car fan to a gearhead. Being in, out, around and under hundreds — if not thousands — of cars, I got a feel for 5, 10, or 15 year old examples various makes of cars — how they were built, how they aged, and how painful they were to work on.

My time left me with a severe disdain for the following: German lug-centric wheels, GM plastic lug nut covers, and all things Corvette (wheels, tires, pressure sensors and especially their owners).

All joking aside, it's a job I'd highly recommend to any budding car fan. You'll make better money than almost anywhere, occasionally get to play hero mechanic for a damsel in distress, stay in shape heaving tires around, and occasionally pick up some pretty good perks in the form of parts or favors. The techs (real mechanics) will teach you a lot if you're willing to listen. The experience will teach you all kinds of skills and random knowledge when it comes to cars. You'll know so much more from working on cars than Motor Trend can ever tell you.

Of course, mounting tires and changing oil doesn't make you an ASE Master Tech. In fact, having an optimized set of tools and supplies for a very limited range of jobs can lead you to believe all automotive maintenance is as easy as 4 tires on a Civic. Alas, this is not the case, as we'll learn in my next segment...

1 comment:

Braff said...

great post...

I am glad to see you hate Teutonic based lug setups... and that you are the mechanic for a Lemons team running a German car...