Editors note: This is a repost of a story I wrote on my other blog last fall. You may check it out at http://KeyOfGF.com.
A few weeks ago, I was checking out lighting fixtures in Lowe’s with my wife on a Saturday night. An exciting date, I know. The blaring sound of Axl Rose from my back pocket startled me.
“Whoa, oh oh oh, Sweet Child O Mine”.
My son was calling. Odd, he was supposed to be at the corn maze with some friends.
I pulled the phone from my pocket. “Hello,” I answered.
“Hey, Dad, the Jeep started smoking and some guy says my water pump is missing.” He said this so fast, I didn’t quite make it out. Surely he didn’t say the water pump was missing.
“Say that again,” I said, and he repeated it. Yep, that’s what he said – water pump missing. Maybe the the guy, whoever he was, told my son the water pump was gone, as in done, toast, or kaput and my son misinterpreted.
“Where are you?” I asked.
“At the corn maze”
“OK. Don’t drive it. I’ll be there after while.”
“OK. Can we go on in?”
“Yes. I’ll text you when I need you.”
I ended the call and looked at my wife.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“The Jeep has some kind of problem. Maybe a bad water pump. I guess we’re going on another Jeep adventure.”
For some reason, she didn’t seem too happy about this.
Ray Tolar School of Auto Service
I do a lot of my own auto maintenance. I do this for two reasons. The first is since 1992, I have owned no less than 11 different Jeep vehicles, including the current 2001 Wrangler my son drives. Owning a Jeep necessitates you either learn some vehicle maintenance or you go broke paying someone else to do it.
Which brings me to the second reason – Ray Tolar.
If you ever come across a diploma from the Ray Tolar School of Auto Service hanging in a mechanic’s office, I suggest you leave the shop quickly. If you do not heed this advice, your wallet will be unnecessarily lighter when you leave.
Growing up, my dad would take his company car to a nearby tire and auto repair shop. Ray was the manager there. Ray must’ve thought my dad was a big old sucker or maybe he knew my dad’s employer would pay for most of the repairs, since they owned the car.
Either way, you could not get out of Ray’s shop for under $200, and that was when $200 was a lot of money. I can still picture Ray, he of short stature and a bushy, brown mustache, telling my Dad, “Mr. Fowler, we’ve got a problem…”
Yes, Ray, the problem is you’re a rip off artist and need 200 more dollars.
Well, my dad wasn’t into cars and didn’t have time to mess with them, so he’d pay the Tolar Tax. I think Dad knew we were getting taken, but he couldn’t prove it. Maybe Ray was an OK guy and we were just dealing with bad quality GM cars from the ’80’s. I should probably give him the benefit of the doubt.
There’s really no Ray Tolar School of Auto Service. The bottom line is, though, I think we all have been frustrated at one time or another with an auto mechanic. When you don’t understand what you’re dealing with, someone can take advantage of you. Thanks to Ray, my mistrust of mechanics pushed me to learn about auto maintenance.
Mr. Fowler, We’ve Got a Problem
My wife and I pulled into the corn maze parking lot. The first challenge was actually finding the Jeep. Being about three weeks before Halloween, the place was packed. Once I found the Jeep, I opened the hood to inspect, using the most valuable feature of an iPhone – the flashlight feature.
Antifreeze was all over the engine bay. Hmm. I removed the radiator cap, and, sure enough, the level was very low. Not good. Next, I located the water pump. As I suspected, it wasn’t missing. Good, but there was antifreeze leaking around it. Back to not good.
On this model Jeep, the radiator fan attaches to the water pump. I grabbed the end of one the fan blades and moved it back and forth. It had a lot of play in it. Getting worse.
At this point, I was pretty sure the water pump had failed, but I wanted to start the engine to take a listen. First, I needed to get some antifreeze to top off the radiator. My house was closer than Wal Mart, so we headed home to retrieve some antifreeze and tools.
A little while later, we returned. My son and his friends walked up. After filling the radiator with antifreeze, I had my son start the engine, while I watched and listened at the engine compartment. The sound coming from the water pump was like metallic finger nails on a chalkboard or Nicki Minaj singing. Either is horrible. I quickly had him turn off the ignition. Any thoughts I had about driving the Jeep to the house were now gone. We’d need a tow. It was late now, and I decided to deal the tow truck the next morning.
That night, I contemplated what to do. I could have it towed to the house and fix it myself, which was not how I really wanted to spend a Sunday afternoon. My other choice was to tow it to a mechanic and deal with it Monday, risking an encounter with a Ray Tolar School graduate. That also would mean dealing with different school and work automobile logistics.
Since this wasn’t my first water pump rodeo, I chose to spend my Sunday in the garage sustained by Pandora Radio and Diet Dr. Pepper. If all went well, I’d save a few bucks, too.
To refresh my memory, I found a YouTube video which showed the entire procedure. I then made my list of parts I’d need and went to bed.
To be continued…
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