The End of the Truck Saga · 20 August 2016

If there was ever any doubt of resurrection, it was removed when I turned the key. My truck lives again.

Okay. I know that the resurrection of a truck is certainly not the same as resurrection of a person, but it does give pause. If I am not the creator of the truck but can still make it rise, then it should be easy enough for the Creator of all to handle resurrection of an individual.

But enough preaching.

I am excited. My truck is running again. Of course, I am a bit hesitant to declare complete victory yet. The oil was not the nice clear amber color of new oil when I checked it after starting it the first time. But it was not the chocolate milk mixture of oil and coolant either. Fortunately, my friend and mechanic guru, Dean, agreed that it is probably residual from two years ago when I almost had it fixed.

[Note: If you have not been reading about the truck saga, here is a quick recap. I broke my truck three years ago. Found out there were several problems. Fixed said problems. Almost. Could not get truck apart again to fix one last problem. Truck sat for two years. Called the cavalry (not Calvary) for big gun help. Finally repaired the truck and it started up right away after sitting for a total of three years.]

So while I am not quite ready to call the victory complete and the resurrection a success, I am ready to reflect on a few lessons I have learned. Some of them mechanical. Some of them not.

We all know it, but the internet is a great resource. It provided me with lots of tips and tricks. It was a visual tool to help me figure out what parts I needed and how to perform certain operations that I had never done before. But friends are even better. I talked to Dean via email, text, and phone many times during the processes. He was the one who told me to trust the wheel and got me thinking that I really had done it right the first time except for a part I should have replaced. I started to just replace the head gasket. Then, I found that I needed a new head. (No jokes here please. I already know I probably need a new one.) Dean told me to change the timing chain since I was going to have the head off anyway. Long story short, I ended up removing and reinstalling the oil pan, intake manifold, exhaust manifold, head, timing chain cover, timing chain, and oil pump. The first iteration. When I could not get it apart to find the problem, I waited (almost two years) before calling in the cavalry to help me take it apart a second time, when I only removed and replaced the timing chain cover, oil pump, and water pump.

Since I had the engine apart a second time, I consulted Dean again and the guru said I ought to replace the water pump and oil pump. I also ended up changing the crank shaft pulley (or harmonic balancer depending on how technical you want to sound). The lessons I learned besides how to take apart and put back the engine were that you need to grab the wrench and just do the job. Then, do the job right (the first time is preferable). And do not, repeat do not, skimp on parts. If I had just looked at the parts and the mileage on the odometer (over 250,000 miles), I would have realized I ought to replace all those things I replaced on the second iteration. As it was, I ended up paying thousands of dollars instead of hundreds. (I had to buy another vehicle.) Unfortunately, the lesson of the cheap way is usually the most expensive way is a lesson that I seem to need to keep relearning.

As important as those mechanical and ideological lessons were, the two biggest lessons I learned through the long truck saga were not truck lessons. The most important lessons were about patience and friends.

Patience is truly a virtue. Especially, when working on vehicles. (Just do not ask for it in prayer or the Lord might send you an old truck to fix.) Mainly, you need patience when accessing bolts that are in unreachable places or even just pondering how to get to those bolts. Reading manuals and sifting through the internet resources are painstaking, and are certainly patience-building exercises.

Learning about friends was an even greater lesson than the one about patience.

We all need friends. We need them for companionship. We need them for support and encouragement. And sometimes we need them to be our cavalry. My wife likes to provide the companionship. She likes to say that she is supervising the job when she is watching me do the job. And even though I sometimes comment on it being unnecessary, it is nice to have her there. Along with my wife, Dean and others provided support and encouragement. They cheered me on and said that I ought to be able to do the job a second time since I got it done the first time. And it seems they were right. It is also nice to know that we have friends who can come in with the big guns to save us when we are in over our heads. (I know, mixed metaphors.) Matthew and Miles came through with the biggest impact wrench I have ever seen to help me on my way instead of towing the truck away.

I know the truck saga is not completely through. I need to rechange the oil and refill the radiator. A few times. Just to make sure the chocolate milk is residual rather than new stuff being created. I am almost certain it is, but I am taking the advice of my expert friends and trusting the wheel. I am believing I did it right. And I am believing, that even though I was not the creator, I could be the instrument in the resurrection of a truck.

[Note: The truck is running. The oil coolant mixture was residual. Praise the Lord and my friends.]

© 2016 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Trust the Wheel · 13 August 2016

I am almost afraid to finish fixing my truck. It is silly, I know. But still, there is a part of me that wonders if I even know what I am doing.

My truck has been sitting in the garage for almost three years. It has been a blob in the garage just taking up space. It has been a drain on time and resources. It has been a fun project that almost did not get finished. And now, it is almost finished. There is a part of me that wants to get it done right now, but there is also a part of me that wants to just stop.

It is crazy.

The part of me that does not want to finish is the part that says I am an idiot. An idiot for spending so much time and effort and resources on a truck that is older than my three sons. An idiot for placing sentimental value on a truck just because my wife and I went on our first date in it. An idiot for running said truck with no coolant. That last one is the biggie. For I know that if my truck does not work when all is said and done, I broke it. But good. If the truck does not work when I finish the project, that means that I cracked the engine block. And then, I will say goodbye to my wonderful truck.

On the other hand, the part of me that wants to finish the job says to listen to my friend, Dean.

Dean and I coach track and field together. He is a runner and biker and all around fit guy. And he knows how to train. Both himself and others. In fact, he and our head (and distance) coach talk about training all the time. Part of that is because they also coach the cross country team together. And part of that is because they have this magic wheel.

The wheel is not really magic, but it helps coaches give their athletes training goals. The coach says that the athletes are going to run four-hundred meter repeats on a certain day and he dials up the times the athletes run a mile. The wheel tells him what times the athlete should run each four-hundred meters. Sometimes our head coach questions the times. Dean always says, “Trust the wheel.” Our head coach usually cocks his head in a “yeah, you’re probably right, even though it seems too fast” kind of way, but does what the wheel says. And the kids perform well. Because they trusted the wheel.

Dean is not just the voice of reason on the track though. He is the guru of many things. Including vehicles. I have asked him many questions on my quest to get my truck running again. In fact, he was the one I called when I first got the chocolate milk (oil and coolant mixture) in the oil pan and radiator. He calmed me down with three simple words. Trust the wheel.

Well, I did not understand right away, but with a little help, I got what Dean was talking about. He said that I ought to trust myself and the process. He said that I ought to be proud I got the thing to start again after all the work I did. Then, he helped me think through the whole process and helped me figure out what was wrong. If I trusted the wheel and decided that I did everything right, there must be a leak in only one of two places. The engine block or the timing chain cover. I thought back and decided that the leak had to be in the timing chain cover where I had seen two deep grooves when I took the engine apart in the first place. If I trusted the wheel, that had to be my problem.

If you have read any of the trials and tribulations that have gone along with fixing my truck, you know that it has been a long two years. A summer of working on it getting it running again, a year of not being able to tear it apart again, and finally calling in the cavalry to start the process again. Which is why I am a bit scared about finishing. If I trust the wheel and I get the chocolate milk again, there is only one answer. I broke it real good and the engine block needs to be replaced. Which means that I am done fixing my truck.

I know I am not supposed to make decisions based on fear. It is not what godly people (or those trying to be godly) are supposed to do. I need to trust God and trust the wheel. I need to have confidence that I did what I was supposed to do in the way I was supposed to do it. I need to just continue the process.

Still, even though it is silly, I am a little afraid to finish. But I will.

© 2016 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Call in the Cavalry · 6 August 2016

Photo courtesy Matthew

We all like to think of ourselves as independent. But sometimes you just need to call in the cavalry. Or at least I do.

I have been working on a project for about three years and have not been able to complete it. Actually, that is not exactly true. I broke my truck three years ago. I thought I could run it with no cooling fluid. I did manage to get the truck home and put it into the garage after I broke it. My plan was to fix it when I had the time. Which is what I did. Or at least tried to do.

When that school year was over, I took the truck apart and put it back together. That was two years ago. I worked on it all summer. I found out the reason it lost fluid was because the head was warped. Like mine. Then, a friend said I should change the timing chain since I had to have the head off anyway. So I had to take off the oil pan and essentially take the whole engine apart to do it right. I did all the fixes and put it back together.

But the fix I made was not all that I needed to do. When I started the truck up, there was cooling fluid in the oil. Some call the mixture chocolate milk. Frothy and gross. Needless to say, I was disappointed. My friend had told me I ought to trust that I did everything right (it did start after all), and think deeper about what could have caused the leak.

As I thought, I remembered that the timing chain cover had a couple grooves in it from the timing chain. They had to be the culprit. So I had to take the engine apart again. I figured it would be easy to change out the timing chain cover since I had done it before. Unfortunately, I could not get one certain bolt undone. The bolt that goes into the drive shaft and holds on a couple pulleys would not come off. I tried and tried and tried. I did everything all my mechanical friends said I should try. A mechanic neighbor even brought over his impact wrench and large compressor. But nothing worked.

So the truck sat. And sat. And sat.

Every once in a while I would try to crank on the bolt. No luck. It was stuck, but good.

Well, to make a short story a little longer, I let the truck sit for quite a while. My wife, The Mindboggling (and patient) Mrs. Miyoshi, was getting tired of having half a garage filled with a worthless truck. She was tired of not being able to have access to that half of the garage either. Frankly, so was I. But for some reason, I thought I could still fix the beast.

I had finally given up after cranking on the bolt with a long breaker bar over and over and over. It was not going to come off. The truck had defeated me.

It is funny, but my wife was the one who asked me if I was really ready to give up on the truck. She knew I was sentimental about it. After all, we went on our first date because I would not lend her that very truck. She tried to reassure me that it was okay to fail once in a while and that the truck was just a thing after all. So I was ready to get rid of it.

Photo courtesy Miles

But I could not get rid of it to just anybody.

I decided that if I was going to get rid of my truck, I would need to get it to somebody who would fix it up and give it a nice home. After all, it has been with me for over twenty years. Even if three of them have been just sitting. So I sent a message to a friend and former student. I knew he and his buddy fixed up cars and sold them. Or at least used to. I asked if they would like first dibs on the truck. Instead of just jumping on the deal, they said they would like to try and help get the bolt off.

I was flabbergasted by the offer. I really had given up and was ready for somebody to take the truck away. Hopefully for resurrection. Just not by me. Instead, my friends gave me hope. It ended up that instead of calling the undertaker, I had called the cavalry.

The nice thing about the cavalry is that they have big guns. And my friends brought the biggest. Where most people’s impact wrenches look like small arms, their impact wrench looked like a bazooka. We, meaning they, had to do some other prep work, but when all was said and done, they got the bolt off. They told me that they probably used about 2000 ft.-lbs. of torque, which is almost double what my neighbor was able to bring with his normal impact wrench. At any rate, the cavalry got the troublesome bolt off.

Of course, now the real work begins. It should not be too difficult. After all, I have done it before. But it is nice knowing that I have friends to call on. For help or advice. And I know that if I ever need the big guns again, I can always call the cavalry. Thanks Miles and Matthew. Charge!

© 2016 Michael T. Miyoshi

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