I’m thinking about doing things twice today, because over this winter it’s happened to me…. twice.
Remember my 2007 Dodge Caravan? In January you could smell hot coolant occasionally while driving , and sometimes when exiting the car but not all the time, and there were no drips.
I finally figured out it was leaking from the thermostat housing, and dripping onto the hot exhaust pipe right below it. That explained the occasional strong smell and lack of drips. Checking my records I found that I’d had the thermostat replaced in 2016 along with the rad. I quite clearly recall the garage suggesting it (and their inflated price) and thinking “I could do it cheaper but this way I’ll never have to mess with it again, sure.”
Wanting to do it right this time I ordered a housing and thermostat from the Dodge dealership. When it came in there was a note from Dodge in the box telling me to cut the bump off the rubber sealing ring with a hobby knife. So I did that and got it all set up on a warmish day (-2 degrees Celcius), took off the old housing and guess what the last guy didn’t do?
As you can see the seal is pushed over by the bump. They also didn’t scrape the corrosion off the aluminum mating surface so I scraped it, put the new parts in and no leaks so far.
Later, during a cold snap of -15C the alternator light came on when Mrs DougD was driving to work. She returned home and took the Focus. I took the plug off the back, it looked fine, I plugged it back in and the warning light went out. I hate when stuff like that happens because you never know if it’s fixed or not, but my voltmeter told me it was charging so off I went to work.
My commute is about 40 minutes each way, but it snowed vigorously all day, and I knew it would be a slow trip home. Coming out to the van after work the alternator light came on, I quickly checked the voltage and got 14 volts, so assumed it was still charging, crossed my fingers and headed out.
After about 10 minutes the instrument lights flickered a few times and I knew the alternator had expired for good. Traffic was crawling, so I shut everything off and pushed on with just the daytime running lights. After pulling into my driveway I turned the headlights on and the engine died, it was that close.
I was able to get another alternator the next day, for a mere $180 plus core charge, including a measly one year warranty. It was going to be a balmy -5C in the afternoon so I left work a couple of hours early so I could at least start while it was still light.
There it is, here’s where the advantage of doing things twice comes into play. I knew from last time that the EGR valve in the foreground has to come off first, that I have to be very careful with its gaskets, and how to undo those electrical plugs.
Here I am at the half way point, you people who live in warm climates are really missing out, I’ll tell ya. Nothing like trying to work over your head while lying in the snow, with gloves on, getting your headlamp to align with your well frosted glasses.
Actually the worst part of the job was removing the plastic splash shield underneath to get at the belt tensioner, those serrated plastic push fasteners get so hard when it’s cold that they won’t come out and you have to break them.
There’s a nice shot, the van is all assembled, running and charging. Januarys blue supermoon is rising above this happy scene of triumphant auto repair. Woo-fricken-Hoo, I’m going inside to warm my hands up.
So what do this pair of re-done re-pairs have in common?
Yup, my old alternator came from Canadian Tire (as did my new one), and when the radiator had started leaking the day before we were to go on vacation these guys were the only ones who could work on it that day. I’d been running an experiment since we bought the Caravan eight years ago, our Ford Focus was only repaired with genuine Ford parts, and the Caravan got C-T parts. It was definately cheaper to maintain the van, but as we see sometimes cheapness and convenience come at a price.
So I’ve answered my own question, yes I fix things twice and the annoyance of having to do it again is balanced somewhat by mostly remembering how to do it. Can you take it, or do automotive mulligans inspire you to start shopping for a new vehicle?