Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Belt Replacement

On Thanksgiving, before we got a chance to enjoy some turkey and football, Larry, Lonny and I braved the chilly temperatures of Grandpa Tex's garage to replace the two fan belts on my Pathfinder.

I had bought the belts quite a while back after inspecting the belts and noticing they were getting fairly worn. After spending an evening looking at the Haynes Book instructions, looking at the engine, and looking back at the instructions, I eventually concluded I didn't know where the adjustment bolts for the idler pulleys were. Then a while later I mentioned it to Larry, who mentioned it to Lonny, who said he had just changed the belts on a Pathfinder at work (he works in auto body repair), that it was easy, and that I should bring the belts with at Thanksgiving and we would 'throw them on'.

So Thursday morning bright and early (well, at like 9:30) we all went next door to Grandpa's somewhat heated garage (i.e. there's a oil drum fireplace/heater in one of the rooms). I had forgotten the Haynes book at home, but Lonny found the adjustment cams without any trouble (they are easily accessible from the bottom), and I thought we were in business.

Then the trouble started.

Lonny announced that this wasn't really the same as the Pathfinder he had worked on before. And it didn't seem to matter what we did to the adjustment bolts, the idler pulleys wouldn't release the belt tension. At this point it became apparent that my forgetting to bring the Haynes book with was a big mistake. We tried everything you can imagine to get the idler pulley to loosen up, but nothing seemed to work.

Worse, at some point one of the adjustment bolts got bent. No one is quite sure how.

But that meant now we couldn't put everything back, because the bolt head no longer fit into the collar. Since we still didn't know why the idler pulley wasn't moving, there was some concern that if it was just 'stuck' and the adjustment bolt was loose, the pulley could vibrate itself free when driven, release all the tension on the belt, and mayhem would ensue.

The solution Lonny came up with was to clamp some vice grips on the adjustment bolt to hold it secure against the collar. Lame, but at least that way we could still drive the car to a repair shop on Friday to get a professional to look at the embarrassing disaster.

So on Friday I had the unenviable task of calling around to try to find someone who would be willing to replace the belts on short notice, and not hang up the phone from laughing too hard as I relayed my sad tale of woe.

Luckily we found a place that was desperate enough for some business that Linzy talked them into not only doing the work on Friday, but using my belts (at a savings of ~$100), and give us $10 off their labor rate (which was already pretty cheap for a mechanic). The guy even managed to only roll his eyes a few times when I was answering his questions like "so..uh...why is there a vice clamp on that bolt?".

The trick turned out to be needing to loosen some locking nuts before trying to adjust the idler pulley. The mechanic was even nice enough to claim that "lots of Pathfinders come in because people don't realize how to loosen the idler pulley". I don't know if that is true or not, but perhaps it is. Though I bet not too many come in with vice clamps holding things together.


McBrideFarm said...

Eek! So many stories of taking things apart on the car, only to find they can't be put together. I'm glad it all worked out in the end, but it must have been slightly nerve-wracking driving the car to the repair shop, wondering if the bolt/belt would fly off while driving.

Steve Eck said...

Yeah, you could hear the vice clamps vibrating under the engine, that was kind of freaky...

Linzy Eck said...

I got the fantastic job of driving the Pathfinder to the auto shop on Friday. I tried not to go to fast as the vice clamp was making a lot of noise under the hood. Steve just kinda laughed at me!

McBrideFarm said...

Lucky you! I see that you also had the honor of calling all the repair places and negotiating your time/price! :)

Steve Eck said...

I actually called the place originally, and they were quoting prices that were too high for my tastes. Then Larry wanted to try some other things related to loosening the pulley, so he and I went over to Grandpa's garage to work on it.

While we were gone, the repair place called back to try and woo our business there, and Linzy played hardball and demanded that they use our parts. So she was solely responsible for negotiating the good deal we got on the repair.