Engine Goes Boom!

Mitch installs new crate motor

12/7/04

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Prologue

The last few weeks had been pretty rough.   For several months I had been working a new job opportunity.  I got the job.   The good news was I was going to be moving to a new area that has a lot to offer in terms of quality of living and putting me in a better place to enjoy my free time.   The bad news was I was going to be moving.

Moving means different things to different people.  I have moved about a fair amount in my life.  First when I left home to go to school, then when I finished school and moved to a new job.  Then when I went back to school and got another job.  Then when I got fed up with a job and decided I needed a change of work.  I found a job in the paper 500 miles away from where I was at the time and decided to go on an adventure.  That led me to the Washington, DC area where I have lived for the past 19 years.  I moved from apartment to rented house to the first house of my very own, that I bought with my wife some 13 years ago.

While we lived there, I accumulated stuff.  I collect things and I'm good at it.  So when the reality of this move finally hit the logistics loomed large.  Fortunately my new job was a good one and I would be able to have a mover handle the heavy lifting and most of the details.  In the end, that too was not all it was cracked up to be, but I digress.

We spent the days leading up to leaving our old home packing those things that cannot be replaced, those things that we did not want handled by movers, and on the final details of moving from one home to a new one 200 miles away.  Needless to say it was a very difficult and trying time.  We managed to schedule the settlement meeting for selling our old home a few days in advance of the settlement meeting to purchase our new home, so our schedule was stacked pretty tight.  In between being on hand for the movers and these meetings, I was expected to be present at the office doing my new job.

We decided to drive out to the area near our new home the day before our settlement meeting to shuttle some of the stuff that the mover would not be transporting.  We booked in to the hotel we'd stay in for the days between selling our old house and buying our new one.  We stowed the stuff in a storage locker and the next day we hit the road to come back for our settlement meeting.

Muster

We got up early and took our time getting ready.  We planned our drive to allow five hours travel, with enough time for rest stops and a lunch hour.  We hit the road on time and moved right along.  We were about an hour and a half away from the meeting place when the oil pressure gauge hit bottom and the "check gauges" light came on.  The engine wasn't overheating, there was no smoke coming from the back, and there was no noise.  Since the oil pressure gauge had shit the bed before, I just figured it was nothing.  My wife was driving the Volvo ahead and had the two-way radio with her.  I called to tell her that I thought something might be up with the oil pressure but not to worry because...

RAPAPAPAPABAMBAMBAMBA-BOOM!

There's a song that Cream did many years ago

Born under a bad sign.
I've been down since I began to crawl.
If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck.
If it wasn't for real bad luck,
I wouldn't have no luck at all.

I generally consider myself a pretty lucky guy.  Things usually go pretty well for me and my family, and in spite of the usual dips and swerves of life, we're pretty fortunate as things go.  But the last several weeks have been a real test of my faith.  First the crash which thankfully cost me nothing but a frustrating detour through a bad body shop.  I could have been killed had my Jeep been another 7 or 9 feet into the road when I hit the minivan that was going 50 past my driveway.  Dead is dead and I am not dead, so thanks to God for that.

Now, here I am with less than an hour to drive to a meeting that starts in about an hour and my engine (142K miles) just blew sky-high!  I limped the Jeep into a rest area outside of Frederick and jumped into the Volvo with my wife and kids and we made tracks for the settlement meeting.  We had just enough time to dump the kids at our friends and then drive to the meeting.  I spent the whole time on the phone trying to find someone who could trailer the Jeep to Adrenaline Offroad where I hoped to find the problem (like I didn't already know).

I managed to get Carl on the phone live and told him what had happened.  He didn't have a trailer but made a couple helpful suggestions.  I called the people he suggested and got voicemail.  I left messages and felt defeated.  I finally ran out of options and put the phone away and sat dejectedly waiting to go to the settlement meeting.

Out of nowhere, the cell rang.  It was Wayne.  Why would Wayne be calling me?!  I wondered if maybe he had somehow heard I needed help but my mind wasn't working very fast.  Wayne told me that Carl had posted on the OCC message board that I had engine problems and could anybody help me.   Wayne saw the message a few minutes later and called me up!  I can't emphasize enough how wonderful this group of people is.  They consistently take care of each other and go way out of their way to give other people a helping hand.  So I made plans to meet Wayne, gave him a GPS coordinate, then sold my old house at our settlement meeting.

Wayne went home from work later that evening, rigged up his tow vehicle and trailer, brought his full complement of rigging, and drove nearly two hours to meet me in the pouring rain in Frederick so we could tow my Jeep to Adrenaline Offroad!   And let me tell you - Wayne's set-up is schweet!  He's got an awesome trailer with a complete set of straps and tie-downs.  It's heavy-duty and professional all the way.   I felt better about having my Jeep on his trailer than I have about many of the commercial tow outfits I have used in the past.

We used my virgin 9.5ti to winch the Jeep onto the trailer then strapped it down.  Then we drove about an hour to get to Jeff's place (Adrenaline).  Now here's another guy that demonstrates what helping another is all about.  Jeff let me show up at his house in the dead of night to drop off my Jeep for repair.  I owe these guys big-time!

We rolled the Jeep off of Wayne's trailer then he decided to drive around the back of Jeff's garage rather than try to turn around in the dark in the pouring rain.  He figured he could do it without getting stuck.   He was wrong.  He ended up leaving his trailer there overnight, and we all got drenched to the bone getting Wayne's truck up the hill.  I took him to the nearest gas station and filled his bottomless tank.  We said our good nights and went our separate ways home.

Now I was in a very strange state.   While it was only temporary, it was basically:

  • homeless
  • Jeepless
  • money in the bank with no bills

Thoughts of warm tropical resorts tempted me but reality came home to roost very quickly.  We had an appointment to go to settlement on our new home in two days.  We needed to drive back the 200 miles to the hotel that we had checked into two nights previous.  And I was soon to get an estimate for the repair of the Jeep that was going to make the decorating budget for our new home a little lighter...

Now here is where my fortune changes.   No, the engine really was blown.  And Jeff called to tell me that one of the bearing cap nuts on the number 6 connecting rod had gone missing and the connecting rod had come away from the crankshaft.  Bye Bye Engine.  We had already discussed the worst-case scenario and what I wanted done, so I pushed the button on that plan and within two weeks Jeff was calling me back to arrange for me to pick up the Jeep.   Mitch did all the work and drove it 150 miles to shake down the install for me before I came to get the Jeep.  Here is what they did:

Chrysler Engine 4.0
Water Pump
Clutch Disk and plate
Clutch Spring
Throw Out Bearing
Sleeve
Misc Parts tube
Misc Parts tube
vent
vent
grommet
hose radiator
hose radiator
distributor
plug wires
plugs
indicator
Oil Filter
Mean Green Starter
Shipping
Anti Freeze
Motor oil
Labor Remove and replace engine and swap parts over
Labor Remove oil pan and inspect reason for engine failure
2% shop charge for consumables 

Most of the items listed are obvious.  But the reasoning goes like this.

I didn't have time to tear into the old block, clean everything else, buy all the little bits, and have all the machine work done, then put it all back together and put it back in the Jeep.  I've gone that route and it always took forever, cost more than planned, and sometimes turned up gotchas the size of Cleveland.  So I had Jeff order me up a crate motor from Chrysler.   3-year guarantee, and a no muss-no fuss install.

 

Mitch and engine bay

Not Good

Fuzzy mechanics photo of #6 con-rod cap with missing nut

Next comes the other things.  I had 140K miles on the factory clutch and pressure plate.  I have never been hard on clutches but it would have been idiocy to have that engine hanging on the hoist with the clutch right there for the picking and put it back together with the old clutch.  So the new clutch was installed.  One less thing to worry about.

Fuzzy mechanics photo of #6 con-rod cap with missing nut

Water pump.  Same deal.  I have blown water pumps.  It was usually at the worst possible time and always was a pain to do with the engine in the vehicle.  Here is the factory water pump with 140K miles just daring me to put it back in the vehicle.  No frikken way.  Cha-Ching.  Water Pump please.

Oil Pump

Hoses, plugs, rotor, cap wires - not old and not crispy, but at this point, why quibble?  Bada-Bing.  New ignition parts, and my next tune up is 20K away.

Picture278.jpg (56922 bytes)

Now the Mean Green Starter has been on my list of things to do since I got the Jeep.  I knew the starter would eventually go belly-up and I would put the Mean Green in.  The last several weeks before the crash, the starter had been staying engaged on the flywheel after starting the engine.  It would disengage after a second but always made a screeching noise. It was going to die at any time.  There was no point in waiting, and no point in putting another factory starter in there.  Bam.  New starter.  Another problem waiting to happen, nipped in the bud.

Sediment in Oil Pan

I was somewhat bitter about the body shop debacle and half-wondered if my harsh words for the mechanic there had stimulated some sabotage, or if perhaps there might have been some connection with the accident.  I paid Mitch to take a look at the old engine and see what might have caused the failure.   He found nothing but the loose bolt which would have been very difficult to accomplish on purpose.  I concluded that the engine failure was just bad luck.

Fuzzy Mechanic photo of Magnetic particles fished from oil pan

So I spent a little extra money to do it easy and kill off any lingering problems.  Jeff and Mitch got me the Jeep back in very short order and it has been running flawlessly since.  Of course, the day after I got it back, I had to go right back under and feed it a couple of u-joints but hey, what can I say?   I live a charmed life...

 


 

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