Monday, April 24, 2023

Another nice mechanic

The F-150 needed a couple of new coils. Richie at Twisted Wrenches in Santa Clara NM said I could order the parts myself to save some money and he’d install them. I asked if he could do it while I waited, otherwise I’d need to arrange a ride. He assured me it would take only a half hour, forty-five minutes tops. Cool.

So I showed up at the appointed time this morning and Richie waved me into the service bay and got right to it. None of that “I got behind yesterday and need to finish this other job first so how about you come back at about 2:00” stuff.

He popped the hood and... there was a small surprise:

Critters had started to make a home on top of the engine. Rather than say it wasn’t his job, he got out the shop vac and cleaned it up.

Twisted Wrenches is the type of shop where you’re free to hang out and wander around. So I did. Some unfortunate person was having the engine in his three-year-old Wrangler replaced.

And it’s the type of shop that saves things.

True to his word, Richie was done in 35 minutes, and now the truck runs fine. And there’s a 30-day warranty on the work.

As I’ve said before, I like small town mechanics. Their customer base is too small for them to last long doing bad work or ripping people off. So if you find yourself in southwest New Mexico needing some work on your vehicle, or just need something checked out, go see Richie at Twisted Wrenches, near the junction of highways 180 and 152. 575-412-3051.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

I'll get a big charge out of this

I saw the FedEx guy coming so I met him in the yard. He delivered the first part of my upgraded solar power system. Twice as many Amp hours, half as many connections.

So old curmudgeon me is taking a giant step into 2019, embracing lithium battery technology. I’ve read up on them enough to answer my concerns.

I imagine the system that has faithfully served me the past ten years probably feels (if it has feelings) like a middle-aged wife getting dumped for a 20-year-old. I had no major complaints with it. I just had to be careful with my electrical usage in the winter.

The switch to a LiFePo4 battery means I need a compatible charge controller. And so I gather enough sunlight to keep the battery charged, I’m retiring my 270 Watt panel for two 200 Watt panels. There’s j-u-u-u-u-u-s-t enough room on the Rolling Steel Tent’s roof for them. 

Even though the old system didn’t short out or cause any fires, it wasn’t wired quite right or efficiently. So I’m redoing all my wiring.

Oh, and the repair shop called today. The new engine hadn’t arrived or even been shipped. The supplier said it hadn’t been ordered. Then they said it had but they wouldn’t have one for another month or more. So my shop is looking for a new supplier. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Making it a little safer

The door of the camper Lou built has a deadbolt. But since the door swings out, the hinges are exposed. That means a half-clever thief with a screwdriver and hammer, and maybe a little WD-40, could pop out the hinge pins and jiggle the door off.

So to add a little bit more security I made a modification I saw somewhere years ago. I drilled a hole in the jam and inserted a center punch I sacrificed for the cause. Then I drilled a slightly larger hole in the edge of the door. The tool steel center punch fits in the door hole when the door is closed. Now the door can’t be easily pried out if the hinge pins are removed. 

You could accomplish the same thing by installing a second deadbolt on the hinge side of the door, but then you’d need to lock and unlock both whenever you used the door.

I know it won’t stop everyone. A coworker’s family owned a cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains. Cabins in the area were unoccupied most of the time, making them targets for thieves who would just cut open the doors with chain saws. Now, with battery-powered hand tools, determined and equipped thieves can probably get into any unattended space. But at least I did what I could.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

The big swap

Yesterday I had the auto repair shop do compression and leak down tests on the Rolling Steel Tent’s engine. Both were lower than the norm but not terrible.

I also had them try to find where my coolant kept going. They confirmed there were no external leaks and that it must be a head gasket or two, and/or the intake manifold gasket. Repairing either of those would be as much labor as replacing the engine, and I’d still have the compression and leak down issues. 

So I pulled the trigger on an engine replacement. They worked up an estimate. Parts and labor just shy of $10,000, which is about what I expected. Seven-hundred of that is a contingency fund for other parts they might discover they need.

While they’re at it, I'll have them replace the rear wheel bearings (the fronts were replaced a little while ago) and the shock absorbers.

So my home will go under the wrench on the 20th and be done sometime the next week. Then vrooooom vroooooooooom!