Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Boy, a lot sure can happen in half a month!

Let's see--I found out that if I allow my car to be totalled, and decided to keep it as part of the settlement, I can't drive it until I get a new, "rebuilt" title issued for it. Big fat hairy deal, which consists of me having to get a rebuilder's license, get a notorized copy of all the parts invoices, post a $10,000 bond, have proof of insurance for your garage, have the car inspected, and pay a hundred dollars in fees.

Needless to say, I'm negotiating with the insurance company again. So far, it's been difficult, in that very few people seem to want LESS money from the insurance company than they're willing to give you.

AND in other things, that center driveshaft bearing support that has been bad since I bought the car got worse when I got hit. It was barely holding on anyway, and the accident made it break. It was acceptable for a week or two, but finally, the vibration and booming noise was too much to endure.

Decided to take off last Friday (yes, the 13th) and fix it.

Problem Number One: I didn't know exactly which shaft size I had (1 3/4 or 2 inch), and couldn't get a good answer from IPD if there was a correlation between U-joint size and the size of the shaft. And I wasn't really in the mood to jack up the car just to measure the shaft. Measure it, folks--it'll save you a lot of heartache. I called IPD and told them of my quandary, and the helpful guy on the other end of the phone suggested ordering both kits and returning the one that didn't fit, but I didn't want to spend money twice on shipping if I didn't need to.

Problem Number Two: I guessed wrong. I'd done a bit of looking on the Internet, and had concluded (erroneously) that the larger-sized driveshaft was mostly used on Turbos or GTs, and the smaller-sized one on regular sedans. So I ordered the small one. It came right on time, but it was of no use to me.

SO, on with the story.

Scooted home Thursday, got my work clothes on, ran outside, and began earnestly and vigorously jacking up the car. In the front, a set of giant ramps my Dad made from locomotive parts (well, almost--1/8 inch solid steel plate and 3/16 x 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 angle iron) but since they're so high, I had to jack the front up a bit, then slide them under the tires. Of course, the jack won't go high enough to get the ramps all the way under the tires, so I had to drive the rest of the way up. Which is nerve-wracking, because if you drive off the end, it's A Bad Thing.

But, this time, no problem. Put a wedge behind each of the tires and hammered it in, and set about to raise up the rear end. After much calisthenics, I managed to get the rear axle up high enough to set the iron jack stands my Dad had made, also made from locomotive parts. (The ramps and stands could hold up a dump truck.)

That done, time to get that shaft loose. I skritched underneath with my crappy creeper, and saw for the first time just how bad the center bearing support had worn out. Basically, nothing but rubber crumbs. Marked the driveshaft so I'd put it back right, unbolted the four bolts from the differential flange, and dropped the shaft gently across my Adam's apple, managing not to completely throttle myself. Although I did wind up with a lovely smear of dirty grease as a necklace.

Pulled the shaft gingerly out of the end of the other driveshaft, laid it inside the garage. Pulled loose the bearing support, dropped it down, and at that point began to feel a bad feeling. That hunk of rubber looked awfully biggish. And the new one I'd just gotten seemed awfully smallish in comparison.

Walked into the kitchen covered in black grease and got the new part--sure enough, my driveshaft is of the 2 inch variety, rather than the 1 3/4 inch variety. My new parts? Useless. One tiny little quarter of an inch sure does make a BIG difference.

Kicked myself for not taking the advice of the parts guy out in Portland--"Order both, and then send back the one you don't need." Pish-posh, said I. No need for that.

Because I am a moron.


Well, the quickest thing was to do what I was going to do before I ordered the wrong parts--go to NAPA Friday morning and get the bigger bearing and bearing support. Also, decided to go to the Volvo dealer to pick up the little rubber bellows that goes around the joint where the shafts connect, which was completely gone.

ANYway, I went to the shop down at the foot of the hill Friday morning, and got the bearing. They didn't have the big rubber donut there, but it was available at the main distribution center in Birmingham. Got in the car, and raced over to the seedy industrial part of town where stray bullets sprinkle down from the sky like cherry blossoms. Got there, finally was able to make the guy understand what I needed, and he said it would be just a minute while they pulled it from the warehouse.



Was accosted by a talkative fellow who works out at the airport and had come in for a starter. Heard all about the fence he had built, the hassle with the neighbors, the NEW fence he had to start building, the above-ground pool he made in the backyard, the fact that it's 8 inches too low on one side, his plans for fixing it, his wife's craft room he had to stop working on to work on the fence and the pool--THIRTY SOLID MINUTES of him talking a blue streak, with me wanly nodding in assent and offering the occasional "Hmm" or "Well" or "I tell you what." The parts guy kept calling back to see what the holdup was, and finally became so exasperated that he went to pull the part himself.

Fence Guy kept right on talking, got his starter, paid, kept talking, and talked his way right out the door.

Parts Guy came back with a rubber donut. Same size as the one that doesn't fit. "No, this one's not the right one."

"Well, we had two back there like this, which is they couldn't find the one I'd called back for, and so they didn't know what to do, but I brought this one out just in case it was the right one. We can order it for you. Be here next week sometime."

Oh well.

I'd only wasted an hour.

Maybe the Volvo dealer has one! I tried to call from there, but couldn't get them. Dang.


Got there, walked in, had to make the guy understand what I wanted, finally got the part number. "Uhh, no sir, we don't have that in stock, but we can order it. Be here on Monday." They didn't have the little rubber bellows in stock, either.


Well fart. I needed to work on either Friday or Saturday, and this was messing up the schedule something fierce. The only way I could possibly make this work is for the folks in Portland to next-day the parts to me.

I am a moron.

Headed home, saw a flock of four wild turkeys standing alongside the Interstate around Liberty Park, wondered where their car was, got back to Grandma's house to pick up the kids (who'd been over there while I chased parts) and wound up back at NAPA to return the bearing I'd bought first thing that morning.

Got home, and the rain started. Looked outside and saw Sarah the Bunny eating birdseed off the ground. Called the IPD, got a return authorization, ordered the other set of parts, paid extra for the next day shipping, paid extra for Saturday delivery, and kicked myself for being a moron. Repacked my too-little parts, went to the UPS store in an increasingly heavy rain and sent them back.

Made lunch, got supper started, and began to reconsider my previous decision to not be superstitious about silly things like Friday the 13th. The only bright spot? Even with paying for three different shipping fees, my parts from Portland are still going to be cheaper if I'd bought the stuff here. But I dared not make too big a deal out of that, because you never know what sort of bad juju that might be unleashed.


Remember that extra dough I paid for Saturday delivery for my bearing and rubber donut?

Well, apparently everyone forgot about it. Oh, it got next day air service alright--and it landed at the Birmingham airport at 6:48 Saturday morning. And sat there. And despite my best efforts to let the UPS hub come let me pick it up there, they came up with every excuse under the sun to say no. So all day Saturday, and all day Sunday my car sat up on the stands, its little half driveshaft dangling underneath, while the part to fix it waited ten miles away.

Now I've picked up stuff there before, so it's not like it's impossible. But the guy kept saying, "Well, they're not going to unload a plane for just one package."

No, but they had to unload the plane, right?

They're not going to let a fully loaded plane sit on the apron until Monday, are they?

No, they unloaded it, and it was routed to the proper delivery rack, where it sat until Monday. It was frustrating to check the tracking number and see that it was on the truck bright and early Monday, speeding its way to my house where I found it when I got home yesterday. You know, rather than on Saturday. When I could probably have picked it up at the airport, only about 15 minutes away from the house, if the UPS guy had actually been interested in doing a customer a favor, rather than sitting around reading the latest issue of Swank.

Of course, I'm peeved at IPD as well, since I stressed how much I wanted to be able to drive my car today, and told them explicitly I wanted it delivered on Saturday, and I was more than willing to pay extra for that service.

Called IPD, got the guy I ordered from last Friday.

"Let me see...uhhmmm, sir, yes, I'm afraid I'm the one to blame for that. Usually we fill in any special instructions to the warehouse, and I didn't put Saturday delivery on there. I apologize for that, and I'll refund the extra charge to you right now."

Which is good customer service. Not truly great customer service--which would have entailed the company trying to find some way of making up for the added inconvenience that their mess-up caused me--but, still, good. And I suppose good enough to not make me swear them off forever.

But next time I'm going to be more careful--measure first, order both if not sure, and make danged sure any special instructions are written down while I'm still on the phone.

SO ANYWAY, got home last night and got my new parts and raced back outside to get them installed. I had not pulled the front driveshaft, which was probably not a good idea, but the bolts were rounding off and I didn't want to get them halfway off and then have to resort to a hacksaw or cold chisel. Got a length of 2 inch pipe nipple and cap to use as a bearing driver and tapped it onto the shaft, which was harder to do than it should have been. Bolted up the carrier, reinstalled the rear driveshaft, and managed to get the car down off the stands and ramps without dropping it, and took it for a drive.

No more vibration from the center bearing, but there is an awful lot of other growling from underneath that might be a bad tailshaft bearing on the transmission. 238,000 miles worth of wear, combined with the vibration and lash associated with the center bearing, and then finally my beating the new bearing on the shaft probably is what's done it in. But at least there none of that terrible driveshaft vibration, and at least now it's no longer tearing itself apart.

As I said--a lot sure can happen in a few weeks.


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