David's Engine Troubles


Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999 16:06:28 -0700
From: David - dbonar@earthlink.net
Subject: Aborted Rubicon Trip

I'm back.  My computer at home died, and I've been unable to access mail
until recently.  In the meantime, my ISP deleted 636 emails from my
mailbox :-(

Anyway, this is the story of my aborted attempt to join the guys on the
Rubicon.  I'll warn you - its sort of long.  Also, it is not recommended
that sane persons try this.

Thursday evening, Keith Lawyer and his lovely lady, Tanya, arrived at my
house as I was making final preparations.  They had been touring in
SoCal and we planned to convoy up together.  I had to wait for a fedex
shipment on Friday morning, and we left about 10:30.  

All was going well as we headed north on I-5.  I was topless, cranking
the tunes, and cruising about 70 mph, with Keith behind me in his
Bronco.  Without warning, I experienced a sudden power loss accompanied
by a large blast of smoke out the tailpipe.  Not a good sign.

We looked under the hood and saw no obvious damage, but the starter
would not turn the motor over.  Real bad sign.  Keith towed me about 6
miles up the freeway to lovely Kettleman City, which has a couple of
fast food joints by the freeway and a bunch of cows.  Otherwise, there's
nothing.  We called Kurt on the cell phone and advised him that I might
be delayed.  Unfortunately during the tow I ran over the strap and
ripped my passenger side brake cable off.  I got Keith to take me a few
miles to the only parts store within 30 miles, and got some gaskets and
consumables in anticipation of some wrenching.  I then sent Keith and
Tanya on their way, and promised them I'd see them on Saturday.  

I called my buddy Paul and prevailed upon him to go to my house, load my
spare engine and hoist in his pickup, and drive the 175 miles up to me. 
Jim and Jenine Lembeck also responded to my mayday call and loaded up
lights, tools, etc and came up Friday nite.  By the time they arrived, I
had the engine ready to pull out.  Paul arrived with the hoist and
engine about 11:30 Saturday morning.

It did not occur to me to have Paul bring my other torque converter. 
Usually its an easy job to take it off the old motor and stick it on the
new, except when the old motor will not turn over.  So, we pulled the
pan off and removed the crankshaft in order to get the t/c off. 
Remember this is all occurring in a dirt lot behind an In-and-Out

With able assistance from Jim and Jenine, the engine started about 11:30
p.m.  We were exhausted, and could not face a long drive at that point,
so we got a motel room.  I figured if I left early Sunday morning I
might still catch the group fairly early on the trail.  Not!

As soon as we hit the freeway, it started overheating.  Long story short
- -- I did not adequately seal the intake manifold :-(  Finally, we said
screw it and started heading for home, when we encountered a huge
traffic jam due to a multi-truck accident.  We sat by the freeway for 3
hours, during which time I discovered that the oil in my newly installed
engine looked like chocolate milkshake.

Soooo, I call AAA and tell them to send a flatbed.  It was a busy Sunday
night for them, and the truck arrives with a 4Runner on the back.  After
a generous gratuity, he rolls the 4Runner off the back, rolls the big
bronco up on it, and hooks the toyota to the back of the truck.  The
Toyota owner was surprisingly patient with this.  The driver asks me if
I want to ride in my Bronco.  So, here I am, 15 feet above the freeway,
sitting in my drivers seat, cranking the tunes and sucking a brew (hey,
I'm not driving!).  About an hour later, when I really needed a pit
stop, the wrecker suddenly pulls off on the shoulder.  Alright, says I,
he needs to pee too.  Not.  As we stop, a great cloud of steam rushes
from under the hood of the wrecker.  It seems a bearing on one of the
serpentine belt pulleys had failed, causing the truck to overheat and
blow all the water out.  Worse, his radio would not work where we were. 
So I give him my cell fone and the 3 gallons of water I have left, we
pour it in his radiator after a 30 minute cool down, and drive the rest
of the way over the hill to a gas station.  About an hour later, another
truck arrives and takes me home.  I arrived about 4 am on Monday.

So, my trip did not work out exactly as planned.  Keith and Tanya, and
especially Jim and Jenine and Paul, were awesome.  My new motor is now
installed, running perfectly, and looking good (and my wallet is
empty).  Anybody ready for the Rubicon?