Car-Dependency, Part 3

“So there I was..,” with only a radiator to replace and a whole day to do it, and in my own driveway to boot. Not a bad start to a Sunday, and a lot better spot than the last time I had to do such a job. I knew there was still some coolant sloshing around in the engine block, so I laid down a tarp, set up a pair of service ramps on top, and drove the van up onto the ramps for better under-car access.

Now, replacing a car’s radiator is not a terribly complex job as car repairs go. There are essentially four big steps to take: drain the fluid from the system, remove the old radiator, replace it with the new one, and refill the system. The devil, as they say, is in the details: gaining access to well-concealed fasteners; breaking loose umpteen thousand miles of accumulated grit, corrosion, and good old surface tension; dropping tools and tiny fasteners into deep crevasses of the engine bay, requiring extensive search-and-rescue operations; and getting covered, layer by layer, in a strange amalgam of  solvents, grease, antifreeze, and driveway grime. Now I remember why I gave up doing this for a living. 

Yet for all that, this job proceeded rather smoothly. I had good music playing and a decent supply of disposable vinyl gloves. I even got to set up my little camping stove to make tea, for the cold that day was of the raw, damp kind that seeps into a person, dying them sore and blue. All was going well until I went to fit the new radiator into the van.

It was the wrong size.

Not by much; not so much as you could tell by looking; I think it measured out to 1/4-inch. Still, there was no way it was going to fit the way it was. I took a break then to go inside and give an update to my wife on the situation.

“You’ll think of something,” she reassured me with a smile.

“Yes, I will, won’t I?”

Even as I responded to her, the plan was forming in my mind; what to measure, where to cut, and how to cut it. I ended up making two modifications to the new radiator, and they came out rather nicely. (I wish I could find the pictures I took of the finished work.) I was then able to fit the radiator in properly, if rather snugly; button it back together; refill the system and purge the air from it (very important); and get cleaned up and “home in time for supper.”

While refilling the system, I had the van’s engine running, and I took the opportunity to get out my multimeter and check the electrical system voltage. Readings were in the normal range, from 12 to 14 volts. The lights were not flickering. I had checked and tightened all the connections to the alternator while the van was up on the ramps, and now that seemed to clear things up. I didn’t have the full set of test equipment to fully check the electrical system, but isn’t that what the shop had done? I should be all set for tomorrow, then. Good thing, too. Downtown early to job-hunt, then that interview out in Beaverton at 2 pm…gonna be a full day. 

I had no idea then how full it would be.


About poorlocavore

Welcome to one family's journey towards a smaller food-mile footprint on a small food budget. How do our choices affect the environment, and what influences our choices? Read on and find out what I'm learning.
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2 Responses to Car-Dependency, Part 3

  1. Francesca Maria says:

    I don’t know anything about cars. Here in Trapani we have an excellent public transportation system so we don’t drive.

    • poorlocavore says:

      That must be wonderful. Here in the U.S. we don’t have that advantage, except for people in the larger cities. Knowledge of cars, how they work, and how to fix them, is often necessary in American life, especially for people with low incomes. We can’t always afford to hire someone to do a job. But then one needs access to the tools, parts, knowledge…it’s a form of capital.

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