Friday, February 24, 2012

(DF) TRUCK REPAIR ON THE FARM ......... a necessary evil

Recently, I may have mentioned that the truck had developed a problem (blown head gaskets, hopefully nothing worse) I believe was the statement. As you can imaging, with fence to build, orchards to plant, gardens to prepare and at least a dozen other projects to be done on any given day, this was not the best time for major truck repairs. Of course, you probably already figured out that most of the projects in question need a truck, making it even more inconvenient.

Before I continue, a little background might be in order. As a teenager, lack of money and the almost complete absence of trustworthy mechanics in the area, led me to buy a few tools and learn how to fix my own vehicle. It was either that, or not drive near so much. Even then, most of my money was earned from the use of my truck, so not driving was not an option. Notice I said I LEARNED to fix my own, I did not say I enjoyed it. In fact, mechanical ability does not come naturally to me and there are few occupations I enjoy less than working on vehicles, thus the consideration of 'a necessary evil'. With that said, I can continue to recount the associated events and maybe get to the bright side of all of this.

Thursday of last week found me standing on concrete blocks and stretching my upper body into the engine compartment of the old truck. Several hours passed, filled with the nasty smell of used motor oil and antifreeze, and the sounds of tools clanging against engine parts, groans, low level cursing and the occasional exclamation as wrenches slipped. FINALLY, with seemingly more parts in the driveway than under the hood, the heads were off. Sure enough, the gaskets were obviously leaking, and had been for awhile. With the heads off, it would only be a matter of putting them back on with new gaskets, right? Not so fast! I made that mistake once, and had to do it all again.

While the heads are already off is the time to make sure they aren't cracked or warped. There are few things I dislike more than paying someone to do what I can do myself, especially if they charge more than I get paid in the first place, but there are some things that, though I could do myself, the tools for doing it make it more effective to let someone else do it. Checking heads is just such a thing. I loaded the heads in the jeep, then realized that the automotive machine shop had just closed for the day. It would have to wait until morning (more muttered curses here). Still time to get it back together next afternoon if the heads check out in the morning, right? Think again!! At this time of year, people are building race car engines in preparation for racing season, making the machine shop a really busy place. I was informed that it would be early next week before they could look at mine.

Late Monday afternoon the call came that my heads were ready. Good news is that they weren't cracked and didn't have to be replaced, bad news is that they were warped, pitted and had to be milled. In short, this added an extra $50 or so to the bill. Bad, though still much better than having to do the job all over again. By the time I got back with the heads, it was too late in the day to start putting it all back together.

Working around other projects, Tuesday evening found everything ready to go back together, and by noon Thursday it was running and ready for work. The whole process would not have taken more than a day, even as slow as I am, but working around other projects and delays made it take a week (yet another thing I dislike about such projects).

For the record, I don't recommend that anyone go spend a bunch of money on tools and start doing their own engine work and such. Tools are expensive and it takes a level of knowledge and experience to make these kind of repairs. What I DO recommend is that anyone with a vehicle learn how to do at least minor maintenance, and enough knowledge of how it all works is helpful in knowing if your mechanic is charging you for unnecessary work. If you are planning to work on your own, get a good repair manual and spend some time with someone who has experience to learn how to read your manual (that someone with experience is helpful when you hit a snag too). This form of literature, though filled with good information, is also written in a strange and confusing dialect that requires some translation. And I absolutely recommend starting on simple repairs and working up to the more complex.

Did I say I would get to the bright side of this story? Alright then, here it is. Though the parts and machine work set me back around $150, this is very reasonable compared to taking it to the local mechanic. Labor alone would have cost in the $300-$500 range, making it a serious financial drain. As much as I dislike working on vehicles, nothing I can do on the farm will pay as much as it would have cost to have someone work on the truck. And the real bright side? The truck works and I know the work was done right.


  1. Way to go David! I can't even see where the spark plugs go in my engine...dang small cars!

  2. Don't feel bad, depending on the car,they may be well hidden. Some of the newer full sized pickups have to have the cab lifted off to change the plugs. Yes, I am serious, and a mechanic told me a few months ago that he charged about $1500 to change plugs on one of those. The parts were only about $80, the rest was labor. Things like that are a big reason I drive older vehicles.


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