Monday, May 31, 2010

Way Up Firm and High

I have to credit my uncle Jim for this week’s title as it was the first thing he said when he saw the car back on its wheels this weekend.

Early Saturday it was another Bob Seger song that came to mind. About 3 years back I almost had a "Famous Final Scene" as I was cutting over on a gravel road to a major secondary highway. It was a foggy and icy morning. It wasn’t until it was too late when I saw the stop sign for the approaching T-intersection. I hit the brakes in a panic and that action turned my little Jetta into a flying saucer. I spun around like a curling rock sent to clear the house. I went right through the secondary highway and planted my car backwards in the ditch on the other side. As I was spinning, knowing a large truck could be barrelling through, the line that went through my head was “Think in terms of bridges burned”. I survived, as did my car, but I had to wait an hour before someone volunteer to pull me free.

It was that thought that went through my mind as I watched a Mazda 6 go careening off the road right in front of me Saturday morning. We had a freak snow storm this weekend that made Highway 2 a slushy mess for a period.

I pulled over to make sure everyone was alright. Both guys were a bit dazed but fine. I offered to pull them out as I had a sling and a four-wheel drive pick-up.

Unfortunately one my side jobs this weekend was to drop my truck off at the tire shop because I was in desperate need of new front tires – I mean desperate. I was due at the shop as soon as I hit Red Deer. My mother was even waiting to pick me up so I could work on the TR while my truck was in the shop.

That proved to be an important detail because grassy ditches with a foot of slush tend to be fairly slick. It wasn’t long until my grip-less Dodge was also hopelessly stuck. I mean buried.

After 20 minutes of attempting to free myself I called AMA. The Mazda 6 made arrangements also. They said it would be an hour wait. I sat quietly for 45 minutes until I got bored and tried again to free my truck. I started rocking it back and forth. Drive – Brake – reverse – wheels all the way to the left – drive – wheels all the way to the right –reverse. I did this for 15 minutes and started to make some head way.

I finally freed myself from the hole I had dug but I couldn’t climb the ditch with my bad tires. The ditch was v-shaped and there was a lower ridge near a barbwire fence running parallel to the highway. The ridge was just wide enough for my truck. I was able to get up on there. Once onI drove as fast as I could (under control) then veered through the bottom the V to get as much momentum to get up the other side.

I was able to get half way up the other side but was facing the wrong way to traffic. I attempted to turn around and lost a little of what I had gained in the process but I was able to get around.

I took a very conservative angle up the ditch towards the highway. I was able to climb almost to the shoulder. I found then that if I attempted to breach the shoulder I was dead in my tracks -too slick. I had to drive half a kilometer to an overpass and it was only on the concrete apron of the overpass that allowed me to get back on the road.

Notice the trail on the shoulder behind the truck

I finally made it to the tire shop but two hours behind. In the process of trudging around the ditch I missed stepped on my prosthetic and bruised my residual limb. Now that the adrenalin was gone I had a pretty serious limp and pain.

After popping out of bed at 5:30 it wasn’t until 11am that I was working on the car.

I made up for my lost time by getting right down to it. I received a big box of parts from Len on Thursday. Those parts included the driver’s side brake rotor. The rotor was missing link to finish off the driver’s side front suspension. After installing the hub with the rotor I rebuilt the calliper. I don’t know how you remove the pistons but I use air and, like before, there were a couple of scary pops. I’m glad I’m done with callipers for a long time.

When I had the front suspension finished I had to put the tire on to see how it looked – it looked great.

Here’s the part I might take some heat on: my next task was to install the new u-joints I received from Len this week on the rear drive axles. Yes, I am keeping the original rear axles – for now. I priced out on getting Goode’s hubs to Canada and it would be around 1000 dollars all in and done.. SO.. for now, the original axles are going back on the car. It will be a down the road project.

I sacrificed one of my six new u-joints to the learning gods. I’ll have to order another for the installation of the driveshaft. By the end of installing four I became a bit of an expert.

With that done I could install the passenger’s side axle, drum and wheel. With that I had three wheels on the car. Much like a catholic marriage it was a tripod (inside joke).

Before I could get the driver’s-side rear wheel on had to reinstall the trailing arm and the new shock absorber setup. Reassembling the trailing arm and mounting it took the rest of the evening. I finished around 12:30 AM. Installing the axle, drum and wheel would have to wait until Sunday morning.

Between my stump pain and 10 hour day on Saturday I didn’t get out of bed until 9:30. It was 10 AM before I got to work. By 11:30 AM I had the last wheel on the car and the car, after 7 months of being off its wheels the TR6 was back on the ground. And it was solid as a rock.

After I had the car on the ground I just laid behind the car for a while and pushed and pulled it back and forth like a big Tonka truck. Pushing down on the top of the trunk and front fender proved this car was solid. The camber in the real wheels was gone and the car was, like Jim said and Bob said, ‘way up firm and high.”

After the car was back on ground I pushed it out into the shop and cleaned the TR6 room. It needed it too. I had tools everywhere and I needed to mop the floor as I was tired of rolling around on a dirt covered floor. When I pushed the car back in I turned it around so I had more room to work on the side I still have to hang the fenders on.

I retired Sunday around 4:30 to give my stump a rest. I retired with a clean shop and, most importantly, a car sitting up on four wheels.

I have training for my new job this week but not until later on in the week so I spent half Monday finishing up some small things: turning the brake master cylinder right side up and connecting it to the pedal. Also, Installing the new clutch master cylinder and connecting it to the clutch pedal.

After that I had to hit the dump with a load of everything I cleaned up on Sunday afternoon.

All and all a pretty successful weekend – when I got home I saw the baffle seal for the driver’s side front fender arrived. Next weekend I should be able to stuff the rear diff with all new mounts in and reinstall the driver’s side front and rear fenders. We are very close to going to Kelowna.

Stay tuned…

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