Monday, September 04, 2006

In Case You Have a Similar Problem ...

Well, there went a three-day weekend without a single post.

See, it was like this. My daughter's been away at school for a week, and she came home for the long weekend, primarily because she wanted to pick up a cheap couch or futon of some sort for the suite in which she resides. Turns out that this year, none of her suite-mates owns such a piece of furniture. So, she located a nice cheap one -- floor model, it was, at Value City. She paid for it, and I took her back there on Saturday in my truck to acquire it, which we did. So far, so good.

Of course, this meant that I'd need to drive down to Indianapolis today, since the couch, while small, is well beyond the capacity of my daughter's chariot. Now, my truck is a '92 F150 with the 4.9-liter in-line six cylinder and the five-speed manual transmission. It's the only vehicle I've ever bought brand-new for myself, and so in my mind it's still "my new truck," even though it's got 240,000 miles on it and it's approaching voting age, with drinking age in sight. Well, anyway, it occurred to me that its last oil change was 3400 miles ago, so I wanted to remedy that before starting a 300-mile round trip. So, Saturday evening, I'm in the garage, making good my delinquency.

According to my usual custom, I added 5 quarts of the new oil, then started it up to check for leaks or other obvious problems. Seeing none, I shut it back off and put in Quart Six. While I was at it, I topped up the coolant reservoir and the power-steering fluid, which has started to leak at a noticeable rate. I also noticed some of the evil white-powder corrosion on the negative battery terminal, so I pulled both cables off, used the baking soda solution, and sandpapered terminals and cable clamps before reassembling. Slammed the hood, hopped in, hit the key ...

Yep, it wouldn't start. Cranked enthusiastically, but wouldn't start. Not a hint, really, of wanting to fire ... just RRRR - RRRR - RRRR - RRRR, and so on and so on. So, I said "shucks" and other expressions of displeasure, and went on an inspection tour. Nothing doing. By then, it was getting late. Went inside and retired, feeling put-upon.

Fast forward through Sunday afternoon, through the installation of new plugs, new distributor cap and rotor, new plug wires. Checked the emergency fuel pump shutoff switch. Checked all panel fuses. Checked all the bigger fuses in the engine-compartment power distribution box. Now it's today. Went around shaking all connectors, looking for something loose. Jumped in to try once more -- and it started! Ran nicely for a few seconds, then quit. Wouldn't start.

Thought it odd that the thing started one time after I'd been on a connector-shaking tour. Went on another one, more vigorously this time. And I noticed that a relatively skinny branch off the negative battery cable goes to a stud on the inner fender, along with two other black wires ... and they are able to be turned on this stud. After playing with it, I notice that there's a bunch of green corrosion where this stud threads into the inner fender (actually, into a threaded insert behind the sheet metal). Looked sort of likely.

I got my jumper cables out and used the black cable to connect this stud to the alternator mounting bracket. Hit the key -- fired right up. Ran good until I was bored with it and shut it off.

As the English might say: a dodgy ground.

Got a new bolt to replace the stud; sandpapered everything to brightness; and, for good measure, ran a short piece of heavy wire to another bolt in the fender (fastens the battery tray, in fact). Started up fine.

Quick shower, and drove to Indianapolis with the daughter, then drove back. Starts first time, every time. Life is good.

So: profit by my "lost weekend." Check the ground connections. Rust never sleeps.

And I hope and trust that you readers enjoyed your weekend?


Craig said...

Mine was fine sans the abscence of any open wheel racing on the TV.

Bartleby said...

Just a few more days, Craig, then: Monza, here we come!

At least on TV, anyway ...