They Call Me Mr. Mechanic

So my day begins. I wake up at 5 am trying to figure out what I am going to do. Should I ride my bike to work or should I get my car jump started and see if my midnight car-madness did the trick. After literally just standing in my kitchen for 15 minutes pacing and trying to figure out what to do, I decide I am riding my bike and I will try to figure out the car situation during the day. As I am getting my riding cloths on, I think it would be better to get the car started and see what happens. After a quick phone call, my friend shows up to start the car. Once the cables are hooked up, the car fires up and I am off to work. Once again I reach the ever so frustrating end of my block and my battery light comes on. I didn’t even know my car had this light, since this is the very first time I have ever seen it. So back to the driveway and I hitch a ride to work. Car problems are going to have to way.

After a few searches on the internet I conclude that it must be an alternator problem and I will pick one up on my way home. I receive a call in the early afternoon from my dad offering to head over and see if he can get started on trying to fix the problem. After a long search for my spare key, that never turned up, there was no way from them to get into my car and all their effort was wasted. Isn’t this why we have a spare key, obviously I need to get a new one made. It was awesome for them to try and help but it sounds like I am going to have to tackle this by myself.

A quick stop and 150 bucks later I have a new alternator to be installed in my car. A printed some pretty rough directions off the internet on how to change out an alternator in my car and I was ready to go. Apparently there are 10 steps to the process and it should take 2-3 hours.5:55 pm - Step #2 Loosen the upper alternator adjusting bolt and mounting bolt nut. After a brief search for my alternator I began to loosen the bolts that in my eyes closely resembled adjusting bolt and mounting bolt. DONE!
Ohh wait I forgot to do Step #1- Disconnect the negative battery cable. This seems like a pretty important step, maybe that is why it is the first thing to do? DONE, and only after doing one other step. NICE!Step #3- Loosen the right front heel lug nuts, raise the car and remove the right front wheel. This step seemed pretty easy, I have changed a tire before. Since I have not had the opportunity to build up my tool collection I grab the stare tire jack and raise up the car and remove the tire. I am cruising right along. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all. DONE!Step #4- Remove the right front accessory drive belt splash shield. WHAT!! What the hell is right front accessory drive belt splash shield? After staring at the wheel well and then my engine compartment for a good five minutes and pounding on everything in sight, I finally see something that looks like it can be removed from the car. Yep, that must be the right front accessory drive belt splash shield. DONE!

Step #5- Loosen the lower alternator bolt. After struggling to be my hand situated in this tiny ass space I begin to loose the bolt. DONE!

Step #6- Remove alternator belt. Easy, right? Wrong! This took for freaking ever. After contemplating the consequences of just cutting the damn thing off I finally get it off the alternator and we are back in business. DONE!

Step #7- Disconnect the electrical connector from the alternator (I suggest to wait on this). I have to ask myself why he put this as step #7 if he suggests waiting on this. Since this piece of paper is my expert mechanic I guess I will listen. NOT DONE:)

Step #8- Remove the upper adjusting bolt and nut the lower bolt and nut. This was a pretty self explanatory step and was done pretty quickly. DONE!

Step #9- Remove the lower alternator mounting 3 bolts, at this time turn the alternator sideways and remove the wires(push the red tab down until it slides and wiggle the connector). You have to love mechanics using terms like wiggle. I am not sure what the alternator mounting 3 bolts was but I turned it on its side and struggled for at least 10 minutes trying to get the damn wire loose. Maybe I wasn’t wiggling enough. Finally after some persuasion with a screwdriver (probably not the best way) the wire connector comes free. DONE!Step #10- Remove the alternator from under the car (this will take some time to get it out) before putting the new alternator in spray the lower bolt and nut with some PB Blaster then upper mounting bolt and adjusting bolt (it will make it easier to install). I don’t know about you but right about now the PB Blaster was sounding pretty darn good, isn’t that what the have at Dairy Queen. Since I don’t know what PB Blaster is, I skipped this step and got ready to put the new one in.

Right before I made the error of installing the new alternator I call to see if they can test to see if the old alternator is dead. You see, they have a fancy machine that is suppose to tell you if it is good or not. So I head over with the old alternator and my battery in toe to see what the problem is. And no I didn’t have to do it on my bike, I was able to borrow a truck:)

After a short wait in line they hook my old alternator up. At this point I am expecting theme to tell me that this thing works like it is brand new and you just spent the last hour wasting your time. It is at this point that I actually explain to the guy my problem and the following dialogue begins.

Idiot Car Owner: So you have no way of telling me if this alternator is bad
Nice Schucks guy: Nope, we don’t have the right connectors.
Idiot Car Owner: So this alternator could be perfectly fine and I just spent all this time taking it out .
Nice Schucks guy: Yep.
Idiot Car Owner: So what about my battery, is it any good?
Nice Schucks guy: Your battery has seen better days.
Idiot Car Owner: Apparently so have I.
Idiot Car Owner: So do you have the battery I need
Nice Schucks guy: Yep, right over here
Idiot Car Owner: Ouch another 75 bucks!
Nice Schucks guy: Well since you just bought a new alternator, how bout I make it….ummm… $36.
Idiot Car Owner: Well...I guess I need to get a new on anyways. Sold!I really didnt want to risk putting in a old alternator and it not working, I made the decision to keep the new one. Finally arriving back at my car with a new alternator and new battery I am ready to get this car back together. Putting everything back together was going pretty easy, a little too easy for comfort though. But after about 20 minutes I had my car back together and it was time to turn that ignition key. I was expecting to hear nothing, but fortuntately the beautiful sound of my engine came to life (well as beautiful as a 2.0L 4 cylinder engine can). PROJECT DONE! Time: 8:04. Not bad for a rookie, 2:09.
So I have successfully changed out my alternator and battery. Maybe next time I will check the battery first but it was sure a great learning experience. If you ever need any help putting a new alternator in your car, I am your man. If you ever need any help taking it out, you better find someone else. I would like to give a special thanks out to Trish for offering to give me a ride home from work. She recently had car problems and understands the stranded feeling, thanks again.


Tim Swanson said...

Dude, I love it!! That is hard core. And of course, you just HAD to time yourself, so that next time, when faced with the exact same situation, you can try and get a PR. Mmmmmm, PB Blaster. Perhaps when you open your combo auto shop/ice cream store, that can be your signature offering.....

Trish said...

I must say...I am INCREDIBLY impressed that you know how to do all that stuff on your car! Way to go Steve! I agree with Tim that it was a smart move to time yourself. You never know when you are going to have to do this again, and you might as well have a time goal in mind! Glad you got it all figured out. Have fun on your rafting trip this weekend...it sounds like you need a break!

Tiffany said...

Wow. I'm beyond impressed. Especially since half of this post sounded like Chinese to me! There is no way I would have ever even THOUGHT about doing this myself. I'm a total "girl" when it comes to cars. To be honest with you, I don't even have a clue what an alternator does! Sure am glad to know that I have a friend who can install a new one though! ;) Nice job!

Phaedra Cote said...

THAT was entertaining! It sounded like it took you 5 hours.....just over two? not bad at all.

Nice job and thanks for the laugh. I especially liked your dialog with "aw, shucks guy". very funny.

missin my superstahhhhhh!

You gonna do the duathlon on Sunday? come on, I need my team mate there.

over and out-

jessithompson said...

Hey, I'm with Tiff... may as well be Greek. But let me just say that it all sounds impressive as hell to me. Timing yourself? Brilliant! You know you're a triathlete when... ;)