Coping: With Thursday at the WuJo

The WuJo is a place not unlike the Twilight Zone, except, unlike Rod Serling’s fine capers, ours are real-life events reported by readers.  And what better way than this one from John M:

Hey George,

Last week I was celebrating my birthday by using my coupon for a free piece of cookie cake with drink purchase. I picked the piece with a vanilla frosting leaf with chocolate accents because I love vanilla and chocolate frosting and dislike the other colored frostings (they just taste different.)

So I get to my parents house and partake of my cookie cake after dinner. It was delicious as usual. Just as I had about 2 bites left my parents called me out to show me something on TV. So I put the cookie cake back on my plate and walk out.

When I sit down out there they start the show up and I go to finish my cookie cake and notice that my once delicious vanilla frosting had now become the not as good flavored yellow… just in the time it took me to walk out to see them.

They panicked a little when I mentioned this thinking something was wrong with it, however, being a long time reader of yours just figured I was the victim of some flux in space/time and now had a yellow frosted cookie cake. So I ate it and, other than the not quite as good yellow frosting, no other side effects.

Thanks for preparing me for such oddities in life,


He’s not the only one reporting oddities and inconsistencies in how Universe works.  We report them frequently – and if you have one of these oddities where things that shouldn’t take place in life actually do take place, by all means, send them along to and put the keyword WUJO somewhere in the title so they don’t get lost in the flood of emails…

Rammed and Ready

As mentioned in our 3 AM’ish (power and personal earthquake forecast post) my brother in law (Panama) wad some time Wednesday and so between us, it only took about 3-hours to get the old Dodge truck back and on the road again.  I have to say, it runs like a top, everything is just smooth as silk.  Quiet, the engine purrs, and I’m pleased.

But I’m not the only one sharing knowledge and insights on this “home vehicle repair” stuff.  LOTS of reader feedback so here’s a sampling:

You just crossed over that invisible demarcation line that separates the haves from the have nots. When your mercury in retrograde truck adventure is over, you will find that it quite likely cost you more than just taking it to a dealer for repairs.

There is an economic subculture in the USA that exploits the bottom of society. For people at this level, things actually cost more than they do for the more affluent. I discovered this years ago when we moved from palm springs to Portland Oregon. After pricing things we decided to rent a U-Haul rather than to use a mover who gave me a quote. After the move was completed and the struggle was over with, I sat down and calculated that it would’ve cost about $25 more to have had the moving company come in and do the entire move. The moving company would also have come in and packed the entire house moved it and unpacked it in Oregon had I chosen them for the job. Our labor was a donation to the economic system.

Point is, that line is moving up, and catching middle class folks like you

Not a particularly happy prospect, but I’m not so sure I’d attribute it to any outright class distinction.  I’d file it more in the “shit happens” file.  Except for the disappearing wrenches, or course…they disappeared and reappeared as though somehow magically orchestrated and that was pretty interesting…

Hey George. I got a good laugh from your Dodge ranting. I hate to tell you this, but the engine in your truck is anything but a new design,it’s a very old design. It is nothing more than a chopped down 318 V8 and is without a doubt the worst ’90 degree’ V6 made(both in terms of power and mileage compared to the 4.3GM and 3.8Ford), but are very reliable and can take a beating  

The power steering pump is a design even older,being a Saginaw unit made by GM since the early 60s…the Torx bolt used to be a hex and the type of puller tool has been around as long as the pump. The pump or pulley can be had in a salvage yard very cheap. These PS pumps are usually very dependable (usually the hose o-ring is the leaker) and a good used one easy to find. As for all the miscellaneous parts that are in the way…thats the way all vehicles are today. The little by-pass hose you love so much, well mechanics have been hating that thing since the early 60s when the first 273cid rolled out. About the only thing on your rig that could be considered a ‘new’ design is the fan. Since most mechanics have very large wrenches, the fan is no biggie and preferable to removing 4 bolts on the back side of the clutch to pump mount, just remember to break it loose before removing the serpentine belt.

By the by…do not try to press the PS pulley on with a press. A big no-no. You will probably destroy the pump. You use the center hole of the pump and a bolt & nut with thick washer or even the proper tool. About your timing chain, it is the old link-belt design and very prone to stretching, it will need replacing sooner or later. If you have it long enough to need it replaced, use the double row ‘bicycle chain’ type…it’ll last longer than the truck. As a ‘nit’, no one ever used a plastic chain, they did however use an aluminum gear w/ plastic teeth.

Yes, all mechanics hate the front ends on these newer rigs…step platforms required. The worst thing about the plastic is knowing how to remove the item without destroying it. You would be surprised how expensive plastic can be. Also, if you think those plugs are hard to change (they’re a piece of cake) try a Mercedes V6. As I have been doing this for 41 years, I can say one thing about automotive engineers…they suck! They should be forced to work on their own designs before foisting them on the public. Oh, and before you get all gushy over your Lexus, pray you don’t ever get the ‘Knock Sensor failure’ code. Toyota in all their brilliance decided to install them (yes 2,1 per bank) UNDER the lower intake in the block valley…oh, and they come in 2 flavors, mitsu or denso and you have to pull them BEFORE you can order them. They ain’t cheap either @$150 (aftermarket) to $450…a US vehicle runs $30-$90. As for doing the work on your toyo and coming out cheaper by the dealer? You must have a much different pay scale there…the average here (Arkansas) is $75/hr. and the sky is the limit. Special tools can be necessary, but too in relation to US vehicles.

In closing, just be damn glad you do not have the newer Chrysler (re)designed engine. They are VERY difficult to work on, VERY expensive and prone to just about every malady known to mechanics. They are Mitsubishi clones and a real PITA. The easiest thing I’ve worked on lately? Hyundai w/mitsu 2.0. Timing belt is a breeze and everything else very accessible right down to the fuel pump.

Have a nice day George! HAHAHAHA!…Z

And the “Curse of Auto Repair” is really what CAR means I think.  And reader Dana has some ideas for you to consider when it happens to you… (Notice I didn’t say IF?)

My sympathies on the car repair woes.  From your pictures it looks as if you’ve “been there, done that” a few times as your collection of tools is pretty much all-encompassing for most eventualities.  Each and every time I get involved in something like a water pump repair, #1, yes you wind up with at least one new tool.  I’ve got that damned spanner wrench you have to have now to get the water pump’s pulley off of its shaft.  Thanks to eBay I denied TPTB their extra $$$ they planned to make off of me by putting out a cheap p.o.s. water pump in the wife’s Jeep Commander.  Yes, it’s a Chrysler product, too!  And, #2, yes, when it comes to trucks, especially, by the time you get it all put back together and threaten the beast with a stick of dynamite if it dares to leak even a little, you’re quite certain that somewhere along the way it slipped its mooring and ran over you at least twice!

Even something as mundane as changing the oil has become an engineer’s wet dream.  My daughter’s 2012 F-150’s oil filter has a deck below it that funnels the oil that spills from the filter SUPPOSEDLY to the front – but does it do that!?  Oh Hell, no!   “THEY” figured no one that owns a “truck” this pretty isn’t going run it up some ramps and soil their hands in the driveway changing the high grade oil it requires so it all goes out the back side of the funnel due to the wrong slope and you have to chase the oil stream before it make a puddle the size of a dinner plate on your concrete –  AND THEN you find there’s enough of a forward slope to allow some to come out the front anyway and your oil drain pan isn’t that wide …. AAAAARRRRRGHH!  Nope they figured this pretty truck wasn’t getting its oil changed anywhere but the Quickie-Lube shops while you sipped day-old coffee and had some kid try to sell you filters you don’t need for three prices.

For the really questionable car problems I do recommend  There are some really great guys there that truly eat, sleep and breath this stuff and want to help.  I struck up a friendship with one guy for a while last year.  He’s a died-in-the-wool Californian but knows his cars backward and forward.  He and I were having a great time being keyboard buddies until Obamacare came to the forefront.  Once we established our views on that, though, the other than automotive chit-chat came to a screeching halt so be careful if you avail yourself of his encyclopedic knowledge!

Here’s to doin’ it all yourself and looking forward to the Go-Jo time!

Dana in San Angelo

Reader Cliff shares my suspicion that there’s a special school that auto engineers are sent to where they learn all the different ways to gforce customers to return to dealerships for service…

Lost my water pump on my 1999 GMC sierra (57,000 miles). Went to PEP Boys on same day the water poured out of the main shaft. They had me out in two hours with new pump, belts and coolant change for $700. Lot of bucks, but you have to ask yourself George, what is your time worth? If I hired you for financial consulting for 4 days, what would you charge me per hour? Hope you enjoyed all that manual labor, I let my money work for me these days. I did my share of engine work, rebuilding brakes, manual transmission, carbs, but those days it was economical and I enjoyed the learning experience. Now I pay the man and just keep and eye on em’ to make sure they don’t rip me off too badly.

I thought about that a lot, since auto repair has about the same payback for time and money as bass or trout fishing.  But like those pursuits, it’s the quest – the adventure of it all – not to mention the macho/bragging rights – that tipped the scale in favor of doing it myself.

And to wrap things up, reader Ed enjoyed the report:

After reading about your experience with your truck I figured no matter what went wrong for me today, I would have a better day than you!

Now all I have to do is come up with some sadomasochistic activity every day and I should have one of the most popular websites on the ‘net.

But no point in us going down that road because there’s already the most popular sadomasochistic site in the world and I’m sure you know which one I mean. 

Not familiar with it?  Oh yes, you are.  Webmaster’s name is Kathleen Sebelius…

More tomorrow, write when you break even, and look for record fall floods…we’ve got the animals here lining up two-by-two from all the rain in Texas…