Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Our First Farm Casualty

Last Saturday started off just like it always does, me getting loaded up in the truck to head over to the lumber yard, to start yet another project. The project in question was going to be Meg’s new sewing table and storage.  What I thought was going to be about an hour worth of running errands turned into about 4 hours of breakdowns, calling in favors, and being towed to my buddies farm.

Since we were in the midst of the arctic vortex I was well bundled in all of my glorious layers as I headed out in our beloved farm truck. The truck was acting rather sluggish even after being warmed up but it was -19 degrees outside so I figured it just needed a little babying, as most of us do when it is that cold outside. I stopped at the gas station to fill up before my journey and could not get the truck started again. It was acting just like 6 months before when I had to swap out the Engine Control Unit, it would crank and crank but not start up. So I called my buddy AA who much to his chagrin is my go to for all engine driven technology. “Pump the throttle once, hold it down to the floor and try starting it” I was told and as ALWAYS boom it fired right up. I had learned yet another lesson in the art of carbureted engines.

Off to the lumber yard with nothing to stop me, I thought optimistically… The further I drove the worse the truck acted, making noises and losing a lot of power. A quick glance down to the oil pressure gauge showed 20psi, which was slightly concerning as it usually runs about 40psi. I decided to pull over and look under the hood. The engine looked good but glancing under the truck I noticed a decently steady oil drip, so I once again called up the wiz kid because, he has nothing better to do than help me right? “Is it pissing out?” After considering my standard urination technique, I answer “not really, just dripping”.

“Well”, AA answered, “when you make it to Cresco, throw oil in it and we can then get it to my house to check it out”. Little did my expert know he was matching wits with a 3rd grader, and was making assumptions based off less than stellar information. My blind optimism forged on until for the first time in my life both a sound, smell and feel all merged into one sense… this bad boy is done! I quickly reached down and turned the key back towards me to shut the beast down, however in my zeal to end it’s pain I turned the key too far and had locked the steering column! Coasting about 45mph down a winterized road with no steering, forget no power steering, and un powered brakes gave me the instant feeling of dread that radiated out from MY undercarriage. I quickly realized my mistake and turned the key enough to get some steering back. I settled in to a nice slow stop at the side of the road, and laughed out loud.

Ring, ring… “Hey buddy…yea… this thing is done-zo, there isn't a drop of oil left and the gauge reads zero pressure.” After we establish a plan and hang up I can’t help but think how much I am testing this friendship. The only other call that friends dread hearing other than the airport pick up and car trouble is needing help moving house, so luckily this problem was down on the list. I was plenty bundled up so waiting around for help wasn't an issue… at first. However what continues to become clear to me about where we now live is that everyone and their brother will stop to check you are ok. It is simultaneously unbelievably considerate and embarrassing . Luckily my societal shame was short-lived and AA arrived with a shit eating grin on his face. After adding oil, AA wanted me to start her up and try. I was able to then witness the same facial expression on his face that I’m sure was on mine when the groin-al sensation struck at the sound of this dying truck. It was amazing.

To add insult to injury I was facing the “wrong direction” from the way we had to go on a very narrow road right after a blind corner, so the 1000pt turn while getting towed and pushed back and forth was out of the question. So we did what any problem solver would do and he towed me BACKWARDS down the road until we got to a gravel turnout and were able to maneuver more safely. 

After completing a bumper car style turn event we were on our way to his house. Being towed by another truck is super fun and scary at the same time. One, I have no power steering or brakes. Two, I was only about 10 feet behind his truck so the margin of error was narrow. Three, just as we were clipping along a HUGE snowplow decided at that time it would be a good idea to share the same bit of icy road with us.

After parking the truck at his place I piled into his working truck and we headed off to run the errands intended before this fiasco occurred. We are guessing it was the rear main seal that gave way pumping more than 4 quarts of oil out of his own beating heart to the pavement in less than 10 miles. We both agreed that neither of us is in a hurry to crawl in, on, under the truck until it gets a little warmer. I also learned from this event that in cases like this it will be cheaper just to buy and swap out a whole new engine vs trying to take the thing apart and fix what is broken along the way, like exploratory surgery. One of the main reasons we bought this truck is because we were bugging AA so much to borrow his time and resources. I guess that is what we get for being considerate of others. J

Stay tuned for my first engine swap. I’m a little more than excited.

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