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
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.
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
There's a song that Cream did many years
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
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
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:
- 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
Disk and plate
Remove and replace engine and swap parts over
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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