Coping: Getting Out of Dodge, Rammed Indeed

If you own a 2001 Dodge Ram pickup truck, you might want to hurry up and sell it quick before it blows a water pump.  Yes, that’s right:  It’s time to whine about the Curse of Cars…Rammed, alright.

As part of our program to recycle and reuse around here, Ures truly has been up to his elbows over the past three (or is it four?) days trying to get his 2001 Dodge pickup, a Ram 1500 with a V-6, back in good running order. (I loose track when I’m having this much fun…sure, right…)

What started off as an exercise in simply changing out the water pump bas become something else…a kind of Zen of Dodge repair meets Psycho.  But about the only spiritual payoff I’ve been able to find has been new and creative ways to string obscenities into new combinations never-before heard on Earth.

The mildest spew of cuss words involved the removal of the fan shroud which involved first removing the clutch fan (a special tool, a $75 deposit, and a trip into town).  Why should I have to remove a million Lego parts to fix it?

In the old days of auto design, you would open up the hood, take off a couple of hoses and fan belt, toss on a new water pump and be done with it.  The process in the old days took something on the order of 45-minutes and even at that, there was time for a smoke and a beer – neither of which was particularly evil, at least back in the day.

Today, the process involves removing the radiator overflow tank, the windshield washer tank, associated plumbing and wiring.  Then off comes the fan clutch, then the air cleaner and then the shroud and THEN (if you’re lucky) you get to remove the water pump with the bypass hose placed when it’s nearly impossible to remove. See the bypass hose circled in yellow?

In some ways, its an admirable design, but Chinese boxes are, too.  It just damn near ensures that a person would be better off replacing an entire assembly.  No, make that replace the whole truck.

After a day of disassembly (other things are going on in my chaotic life while this simmers) you get to take the retrieved water pump into your nice, clean shop and prep it for installation. This wrecks the fine furniture purpose of the shop, but that’s the price of war.

Oh, wait.  The people who designed the packaging for the water pump didn’t seem to understand that the pump would slosh around in the box, so the gasket was, of course, broken.  So that meant another trip into town to get a gasket.

I’m not sure if the Devil himself had a hand in this design, but I’m, planning an exorcism, just to be sure, since it’s an unholy pain in the ass to work on.  That big Ram front end have to be leaned-over so the back and chest are sending hate mail to the brain now.

Since I’d noticed that the power steering pump was bleeding all over everything on the lower driver’s side, the trip to town was preordained, anyway:  I have to replace it, as well.  I concluded I should buy a lotto ticket about here, luck couldn’t be this far on one side of things, after all, could it?

Oh…a mystical Zen question, here:  WTF was the point of using ONE STINKING TORX-50 BOLT?  Screw consumers into the dealership?  I mean seriously, WTF?  I noted that and put that on my list.  I am now the proud owner of three Torx sizes, which I pray I will never use again.

On the way to town I asked myself “”How is it that Kenworth can build trucks which are just getting broken in at a million miles, and Dodge wasn’t able (back in 2001) to build one which would keep running past 90-thousand miles without major surgical intervention?  Is there any possibility that Japanese automakers have the brains God gave chickens and simply out-thought us here?”

The dashboard is cracking, too.  Another design fault – which I ‘m sure will be blamed on the Texas sun.  Maybe Detroit doesn’t get sun – or may – just possibly – it was the least-cost plastic selected…yah think?

With the power steering pump off the vehicle, next came the problem of getting the pulley off the power steering unit. Ha!  Nothing is simple in cars anymore:  A sane person, or back in the old days when “solid  engineering” didn’t take a back seat to functionality/serviceability, one would have installed a keyed shaft, some kind of locking mechanism, and the disassembly could take only a matter of a minute, or two.

But did the modern engineers do that?  Hell no.  Instead, they used a press-fit pulley which can only be cajoled off the pump shaft with a special too.  I had gear-puller.  Except, of course, when that doesn’t work.  Then you take the tools to the outdoor tool bench (leftover power steering fluid is leaking everywhere by now) where (more four-letter words) the diligent application of heat to the pulley,  circuit cooler to the shaft and a 250-foot/pound impact wrench MAY after you try for a an hour, remove the pulley.  Which is now bent.  Shit.

Oh, and you can’t skip around  this task because there’s a cast bracket that needs to be salvaged from this accursed design.  Unless you want to order a really expensive part,

A call to the local dealership about the price of the whole assembly hadn’t been returned by press time this morning.  I figure they were too price-embarrassed to call.  I only look like an idiot.

Oh, wait:  The design really gets better here:  Since it’s a press fit, I figured all I would need to do is take the (slightly bent) pulley over to the 12-ton shop press and it should go on.  Well, it doesn’t.  It only went part way, so this morning, while Panama puts up crime scene tape around the garage, I;’m off to buy a new pulley ($20) and rent the special tool that goes on the front of this spawn from hell, another $20 deposit, and tomorrow’s adventure will be putting the whole shitteree back together again.

I have more invested in tool deposits than in my trading account now.

In the meantime, I can only assume that no one in Washington DC ever didn’t anything more serious with a 2001 Dodge pickup than get drunk and drive it, because if they had actually worked on a two-owner, under 100,000 vehicle which is trying to fall apart, they would never:

Or, was the bailout part of a brilliant plan to subvert Fiat?  And, say, isn’t Italy’s economy in the crapper now, and did the Fiat-Chryslers deal have anything to do with it?  Hmmm…

Has Chrysler changed its ways?  No telling.  Since we are all having such a wonderful economic recovery, I won’t be going out to buy a new vehicle any time soon.  But you can damn sure bet that if that time ever comes again, I’ll be popping the hood and asking questions like:  “What disassembly is required to change out the water pump and power steering pump?”

“Can I change plugs in a half-hour?”  In real life, I am an air tool artist on machinery, but not on this rig.

And my kicker:  “Is the timing belt in this engine plastic or metal?”

At least THAT part Chrysler did get right – and it was one of the reasons I bought it.  No plastic timing chain…another engineering screw-job to save 18-cents and ensure lifelong employment for mechanics. Another way to screw the consumer at the 100,000 mile mark.

Once the glorious day of the trucks return to the road arrives,  Elaine’s car goes in for a timing belt and water pump change-out.  This will happen as a preventative measure.  She’s got a pre-Fukushima older Lexus that runs like a top.

And even though it’s a 2005 model Lexus (92,000 miles) , the incremental add-on to change out the water pump is about $300 since they’ll have the engine torn open for the (plastic/junk) timing belt replacement. 

Still, where Lexus shines is in customer service because they will  a) pick it up, b) do all the work, c) drop off a 2014 Lexus to drive while it’s in the shop, and d) do it for about the same price as the do-it-yourselfer, particularly if you value your time at $20-bucks an hour and count tool rental.  Oh, and some Prilosec and vodka.

Still, Letscuss wants somewhere around $1200 to replace the Mark Levinson Sound subwoofer on the rear window deck?  Over my dead body.  The failure is cheap plastic, not rocking out…so that really oughta be covered, but it’s not.

George II’s new Versa  four door may be the way to go:  For $14,500 he got a car which should make 100,000 before needing everything in the world worked on.  If here’s smart, he’ll just take his $0.145 per mile and throw the Versa away at 100,000 miles.

That, my friend is this morning of this morning’s rage:  ‘Merca is too effing stupid to buy quality…Where we lost that isn’t clear, but I think it happened about the same time, or shortly after,  the coup killed Kennedy.

You see, there was one American iconic car, once upon a time.  And Pappy almost bought one for the same reasons I would in a flash:  The Checker Motor company which made vehicles for the taxi industry and they were based on the million-mile idea.  Only thing is,  we were too damn stupid to realize its value when we saw it.  It took Japanese companies to realize that quality might mean something.

And as a result, we lost Detroit….a process which is dragging out, even through this week.  So to me, nothing symbolizes the failure of America to achieve quality over marketing, that the f*cking Torx T-50 and the afterbirth of  Dodge engineer – the water pump and power steering unit which is somewhere on the workbench waiting for me to calm down enough to just “get ‘er done.”

It seems obvious to me that “value engineering” really means building disposable cars to sell to who? 

Dumb and disposable people.

Does e-Squared Work?

Jury is out – as I am doing the first experiment suggested in E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments That Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality ($2 Kindle or $11 hardback).  If I suddenly find a bunch of money, then I will admit it may work. 

But the problem I have is that one of the tenets seems to be that you have to believe in it working, in order for it to work. 

Which I have a small problem with, because if what the author says is the FP really is all pervasive and natural, then I shouldn’t have to do much more than present my demands (reasonable or otherwise) and I should get what I want.

After all, gravity works without my active participation, right?  So does electricity…so the jury is out, but I will buy a lotto ticket this morning, just to make an easy path of things.

Meantime, though, at least one reader says it works:

Good morning George!
I too have downloaded the E-squared book and have gotten through the first experiment.  I put “out there” that I would recieve an unexpected gift in the next 24 hours.  The next morning I was in my garden raking, pulling old plants and just general cleaning and I found the rubber handle to my garden tractor lever.  Now you have to understand that my John Deere tractor is something I love and appreciate every time I mow my 3 acre hilly yard.  I spent a wopping $5000. on this lawn tractor used and last year when mowing under the swingset the handle caught one of swings and catapulted the rubber handle into the abyss.  I looked and looked for this handle to no avail.  Now my tractor was no longer perfect and every time I was on it I was reminded of this when I looked at the bare lever with no handle.  So when the FP brought this handle back to me I was delighted!  I laughed to myself and said out loud “THANK-YOU!!  No one can understand how happy I was to have that little handle back on my John Deere!!!  It truely was an “unexpected” gift!!!


I dunno, Kelly.  That may seem meaningful to you, but I’m holding out for a lot more tangible (and did I mention fungible) evidence. 

Coincidences happen all the time, and because I am in slave/left brain this morning due to my truck experience, I’m demanding a certain large number from out of the blue, otherwise I’m a skeptic. 

I’m putting it out there as a “If FP is real, this is how much cash (or equivalents) I want.  We should know before Thursday’s report.

Tuesday at the WuJo

Fine report here from reader Sondra

Hi George!

     It’s the crazy nurse from LA (Lower Alabama)again.  I had been wondering when the next wujo event would take place.  I have two red thumb drives for work.  One is larger volume wise than the other so I labeled it with my name for easier sorting. 

Early last week I was looking for the unlabeled one.  I have a small basket by my computer that I keep them in and it wasn’t there.  I searched my office, my home, my car, and my backpack.  Couldn’t find it, remember thinking, wonder where it will show up, probably some place I already looked. 

Friday when I left work I took the labeled thumb drive and put it in my scrub pocket immediately after saving some files to it and unplugging it from my computer, it was the only one I had.  Went home and placed it on top of my calendar on my desk.  Put it back in my pocket when I headed to work this morning because I never got the chance to work on the files I brought home. 

When I got to work and went to plug it in, guess who was already in the usb port? The labeled thumb drive with the files I had saved to it on it. 

Somehow when I unplugged it Friday it turned into the missing one.  I was the last one to leave and locked my office Friday as I left.  There is only one empty usb port on my computer that I can use for thumb drives, I couldn’t have missed it being there. 

I guess Universe wanted to be a little more obvious than the show up where you already looked I had thought about.  Kinda in your face Monday.

Yep, that one is a stumper alright.  Solutions to this one are welcome.

More on Thursday, but don’t forget you can get 5-months of access to our premium site for just $20-bucks.

Write when you break even,