Fixing My Own Leak

[ Posted Thursday, June 17th, 2010 – 19:49 UTC ]

This is really nothing more than a glorified "Program Note," just to warn everyone. The wife's car, which she totally depends on, had its own blowout two days ago. Yesterday, many hours were spent diagnosing the leak. Today, many hours were spent beneath the engine of the car, actually fixing the leak.

This wasn't a "drip, drip, drip," it was more of (to quote Calvin, of "....and Hobbes" fame) a "kablooie" type of leak. The car couldn't make it three blocks to the store and back without spewing a huge amount of sludgy stuff everywhere.

Luckily, I managed to figure out exactly what was wrong, and (even more luckily) the problem was within my skill set to fix. So, long story short, some hoses are new, engine is tight, and everything is clamped back down the way it should be. It can survive rush hour stop-n-go or 80 miles an hour now, without polluting the immediate environment in any way (other than, of course, through the exhaust pipe). I consider this a personal victory, but sadly, it left me no time today to write a column (due to the emergency nature of the repairs). For which I apologize.

And before anyone thinks I'm making any sort of larger-picture point here, I strenuously hasten to point out that the car's engine was not under 5,000 feet of water or bazillions of pounds of pressure. It's nice to be able to turn the car off and let it cool down before attempting the repair, in other words.

Again, apologies for the lack of column today. Friday Talking Points will appear as normal tomorrow (with the Republican who apologized to BP slated for top billing). Until then....


-- Chris Weigant

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


6 Comments on “Fixing My Own Leak”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Never a need for you to apologize ... we're all just very happy that everything is running smoothly again!

    I am so looking forward to FTP - I actually saw that Barton rant live and it was a jaw-dropper.

    I was similarly affected when the BP CEO said that by July they'd be capable of capturing 60,000 to 80,000 barrels of oil a day. Oh, really? Can someone please refresh my memory on what the current high end estimate is of oil gushing into the Gulf ... I believe that was just this side of 60,000 barrels.

    Let me do some math ...

  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Liz -

    All I know is that there are zero barrels, gallons, or even drops leaking from my wife's engine right now.

    I have a wonderful trick with hose clamps if the parts store doesn't have exactly the right molded rubber hose, which I will share only if someone is actually interested (it's kind of esoteric and WAY off the beaten path of this blog, so I'm going to have to be coaxed to reveal this brilliant new useage for hose clamps).


    As for tomorrow's column, I, too can't wait...



  3. [3] 
    Hawk Owl wrote:

    Well, this may be a [historic?] first.
    The blogosphere is filled with bloggers who hope to find a "Leak" then use it as a launching pad for articulating to the world how things could be better.

    You have, however, actually fixed the leak problem first and then written about it after it's been taken care of.

    Last weekend Bob Edwards on NPR interviewed a fellow who encourages people to become "Makers," i.e. someone who actually thinks they can "fix" things and are bothered by products from plastic oven timers whose backs are sealed up so you can't even open them up to find the problem to fancy automobiles whose engines are covered over with plastic so that you can't even get to the spark plugs to change them --
    and even if you could, they're paired with individual coil units that are so complicated to disassemble that when you do give up and take it to the dealer they charge you $250 for a job that should be do-able in 15 minutes in your own driveway.

    I'll cut my self off before I drift into ranting, but I remember listening to my grandfather recount how he & his family had driven in a Model-T from Nebraska to Michigan, changing and patching 6 flat tires, cooling off an overheated engine with water from a stream, and "re-jiggering" the gears a few times when it wouldn't start moving.

    A century or more ago being a "Mechanic" was an all-encompassing and proud title from an era when people wouldn't just throw out a gadget and go to Best-Buys-'R-Us and replace it without even wondering HOW it had stopped working.

    My grandfather would've been impressed by your hose patching . . . and, by the way, just how did you "re-jigger" those hoses?

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I'm glad someone asked! :)

  5. [5] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Hawk Owl -

    I was thinking of a BP/Gulf style leak, not a Washington style leak (because it'd be too easy to make a Nixon-plumbers joke about fixing the leaks...). Heh.

    OK, for non-mechanics, a preface. There are two types of hoses the parts stores sell. One is "molded" -- pre-formed into exactly the shape (with bends and squiggles properly pre-positioned) it needs to be to fit into your engine. Then there is hosing they sell by the foot, which is flexible, but not pre-formed (you have to bend it yourself).

    The hose I needed to replace was in the shape of a "J" -- a short end, a long end, and a 180 U-turn. I ordered the molded hose, but then picked up a bit of the flexible hose which I thought I could install until my ordered part came in.

    The problem (think of a garden hose) is that when you bend a hose that sharply, it kinks. Or at least, in the bend, it flattens out. Meaning the leak may be fixed, but the flow of liquid through the hose is going to be restricted -- not a good thing.

    Hose clamps are the little metal bands that tighten a rubber hose down. I got new ones (they're cheap, always buy some new ones), so I had two old ones available.

    So (here's the stroke of genius), I slipped the old clamps around the hose so that they'd be in position right at the bend. This FORCES the hose to retain its round shape, and not flatten out. It takes a little adjusting until you get the clamps in exactly the right place, but it works like a charm. I've got a J shaped hose on the car now, with no kinks or flat spots, and it just cost a few cents more (new clamps) to do it. This should work on pretty much any size hose, too.

    Now, I can't claim I'm the first to have thought of this, but I stunned myself, I have to admit, at the simplicity of the solution.

    My molded hoses came in, and I'll put them on this weekend, but for a quick fix the flexible hose is working great.



  6. [6] 
    Hawk Owl wrote:

    Well, it strikes me you really "went round the bend" with your resourceful / creative thinking with that.

    On the chance that it might be of some worth, I recently learned that Sears sells a telescoping, extendable magnet which can be very useful in removing
    spark plugs from an engine block.

    Now, then, back to politics . . . and the South Carolina senate nominee . . . ???

Comments for this article are closed.