Monday, January 13, 2014

Old Man Car

Last March, I bought a car to save miles on the truck.  Literally a brother-in-law deal, I bought a 2001 Mercury Gran Marquis from my brother-in-law.  It served them well for several years, and suddenly became an extra car.  I was looking for an extra car, so I made the deal.

Almost immediately, the Check Engine light came on.  I went by Auto Zone and got it checked.  Something about insuffecient coolant temperature.  So, I flushed the radiator, got all manner of nasty coolant out of there, and re-filled it with good antifreeze.  It ran, it started, it did everything that a car was supposed to do, but it had an annoying miss, and the engine temp gage stayed way down in the cool range.  So, I asked around, did my research, and found a mechanic that several friends vouched for.  Just before Christmas I took it to him, and he checked it, told me that a couple of sparkplugs were misfiring.  I told him I'd bring it back after the first of the year.  Sure 'nuff, on January 2nd, I pulled it into his shop.  He said he'd call me later that day.

He called in the late afternoon, found another problem.  The valve cover gaskets were leaking, and throwing oil into the coil packs.  I needed to change the valve cover gaskets, so I told him to go ahead.  Evidently, that's a major job because he gave me a major estimate.  A little Googling and I found that changing the valve cover gaskets on a Ford 4.6L engine ain't like it used to be.  It used to be a 20 minute job on the old engines I once worked on.  Now, you've just about got to disassemble the engine, or all the crap on top of it, just to get to the valve covers.

Okay, I told him.  Do it.  About two days later he called back, asked me to come by the shop.  I went by the shop and he showed me that when he took the valve covers off, the timing chain was loose.  Very loose.  The guides were gone.  Decision time.  I gritted my teeth and told him to continue.  New chains, sprockets, guides, tensioner, everything is brand new in the front of the block.  I cried, paid him his wage, and brought the car home.  Running fine.  Took Milady out and the Check Engine light came on.  And the water temp gage on the dashboard was way down to the cool side.

Well, hell.

I took it back to him today, and he put his little code reader on it.  Insufficient coolant temperature.  The thermostat is stuck open.  The engine never really gets to operating temperature.  He commences to telling me how easy it is to replace the thermostat.  Ten minute job.  Any fool can do it.  Then I notice that there is an auto parts store 50 yards from his shop.

"Look", I says.  "You gave me a good screwing on that last job.  How about a reach-around on a thermostat?  I'll buy it, and you install it.  It's an easy job, remember?

"Yeah," he says. "We can do that.  Go buy a thermostat."  One 10mm socket, ten minutes later, we were done.  The engine temp gage got nicely in the middle of the range and stayed there all the way home.

Hopefully, my car is fixed.  I love that car.


Gerry N. said...

A competent, honest mechanic is a treasure. I've got one and he is a good friend to boot.

Gerry N.

Old NFO said...

Oh man, yep once you 'start' down the repair road, it's better to just keep going and get it all fixed... The pain eventually recedes in a year or so...

Anonymous said...

My 2002 Ford Ranger had over 320000 miles on it though it still ran well. It was to small for what I do and some things happened I lost confidence in my mechanic. So I bought a new 4 door pickup. Every month I make that payment I wish I had found another mechanic. If you like it keep it.


Melissa said...


zdogk9 said...

I've got two mechanics I use, one will do everything to perfection, he mostly works on my wife's Volvo. The other will do what it takes to make it run without doing a walletectomy on you. He works on my '02 Ranger.

Blackeagle603 said...

Still cheaper 'n a car payment.

Gerry N. said...

My vehicle is a '92 F150 with few balls and whistles. I've had it ten years. A year after I bought it it ate it's #2 piston. I had a Factory Rebuilt engine installed, and everything save a couple of simple failures of small parts has worked fine since. The small part failures were taken care of in less than an hour each. I'll likely drive this pickup until I can no longer drive.

Like the man said, cheaper than car payments.

Cayla Maggio said...

In my opinion, this is one advantage when you take your car to a shop. They will check it thoroughly to see where the problem really lies. It may take a while to fix it, but it’s worth it once the repair is done. How‘s your car now anyway? I hope it works fine.

Cayla @

David Woodall said...

While he may have found those problems while looking for your particular concern, it would have been best if he had addressed that particular problem first before going to everything else. But then again, replacing them in batches is definitely better than having them fail one at a time. It's a good thing that the problem with the thermostat was finally fixed. Hopefully there weren't any other problems with it. Old models are really fun to drive around, but sometimes they can be quite a pain in the pocket.

David Woodall @ Capitol Hill Exxon