Saturday, July 12, 2008

Mini Saga: The Continuing Story

As all good sagas have a beginning, this one starts here:

When last we visited Dr. Stan, Mini and Red, we were hoping a successful transplant could be accomplished by the time Stan's M & D arrived. Alas, our patient is still hospitalized, er, garaged and the transplant has not occurred.

So, why the saga update?

Well, because there is more to the story, of course!

Act 4 - BB

Did I tell you that Mini has an A/C that works great even in the FL summertime? It sucks all the humidity out of the air and keeps everyone comfortable except for Rachel who needs a blanket. Obviously, we cannot use Mini's A/C without Mini but we've been missing that particular aspect of Mini more and more everyday.

Sometime before Christmas we noticed that BB (our beautiful burgundy Buick) would occasionally blow smoke out the A/C vents. This smoke smelled like burning leaves and was visible. We would react very calmly:

"Quick! Shut it off!"

"Get the windows down!"

"Do we need to pull over?"

This did not happen every time we used the A/C and it actually took a little while to convince the good doctor that the problem was with the car and not just our encountering smoke from burning piles of leaves where people were cleaning up their back yards because for several months he was not with us when BB was smokin'.

Then he experienced it for himself. After examining the car, he decided that some leaves must have gotten into the A/C blower motor from the outside vent and were catching on fire. Yes, burning leaves. No, not from back yards.

Oh, goodie. And me without an extinguisher.

He said we could still use it & the car would not explode as long as we turned the A/C off whenever it blew smoke.

Soon after that we noticed that while the air from the A/C is cold, it just doesn't seem to blow into the car very well. It SOUNDS like gale force winds but actually there is little to show for all the bluster.

Ah, well. That good old 4/55 A/C has been around a long time. Hot air in the face is better than no air at all.

You know, when Stan & I got married we had old vehicles with crank handles to work the windows. I thought we were really moving up in the world when we got our first car with power windows. Luxury. Plus, they were fun! Everyone could work their own window but the real power hound was the driver. The driver had control over all the windows right at her fingertips, raising and lowering at will - all four at once if she so desired. "Buwha ha ha ha ha!"

Unless of course, the car was turned off. Then you sat in the heat and could do nothing without the keys except open the doors. Then I really missed those manual windows.

BB was our 2nd car with power windows.
BB was our 1st car to have the window's motor short out - but just the one controlling the front windows. This happened just a week or so before Stan's folks arrived in May.

Having just the back windows open seems to cause a vortex sucking more hot air into the front of the car and pulling out any of the cold A/C air. I'm sure there's a scientific theory or science fiction explanation but I just know it made things HOTTER. So we came up with a temporary fix.

This little fan keeps the air moving and propels some of the cold air into the back seat. Rachel is wanting to add a spray water bottle. I think duct taping some blue ice to the front of the fan might cool us off better. We are remembering to put sun shades in the windows, look for trees to park under and keep sweat rags in the trunk. Not really! They're in the glove box.

We've been thankful that weather conditions have not seemed as hot as last summer, perhaps because of all the rain we've been getting (PTL!!) or maybe global cooling? Jacob has been choosing to ride Lurch to church so as not to overstuff the clown car. (Riding Lurch has its own drawbacks. Remember it's been RAINING daily.)

(Here is where we must pause briefly to ponder the reason for all these vehicles, namely CHILDREN, actually leaving the nest, uh, car. No more sweet conversations. No more breaking up backseat wrestling matches. No more singing together at the top of our lungs and waving to anyone who looks like they're listening. No more awkwardly passing out drive-thru food items without dropping, spilling, or hammering whoever is next to you in the nose with your elbow. No more knees in my back bouncing to the rhythm of whatever is playing on that mp3. Ah, sweet memories. Now back to our program in progress...)


Andrew has occasionally blessed us by offering the use of his wheels, Sport. His power windows are still empowered.

We are also thankful that BB's A/C has stopped smoking. And we didn't even have to use the nicotine patch. We are hoping there is no relapse.

Act 5 - Ranger

Speaking of relapses, did you know that less than a year ago Stan replaced Ranger's engine with that of a 90 Mustang? Same engine just a little newer and WORKING. Important that, since this little truck gets Stan to work. And back. At least it's supposed to.

About three weeks ago it started running badly. It sounded awful, had no energy and wanted to die (Ever feel like that?) so Stan began replacing parts. He finally decided that the distributor was the culprit so attempted to get a new one.

Did you notice I said attempted? This was not as easy as you might imagine.

Stan & the helpful employees at Advance Auto Parts (Keep the Wheels Turning) found the proper distributor on their computer and ordered it. It arrived that afternoon. The box had the right part number on it but it was the wrong distributor. Another was ordered. It arrived two days later. Same thing happened. Then they read the box: "The part within may not be what you ordered or need because this is a generic distributor. You can purchase other parts to change out the different parts of this part so that you will wind up with a part that might work to replace your defective part." Or something to that tune.

Neither was happy with that song & dance so they looked-up and ordered four different distributors hoping that one would be the same as the one showing-up on the pc program. All four came in the next day. One looked right so Stan brought it home & tried to put it in. It was too long. He took it back to Advance.

Realize that all this time his truck was not running so he was driving BB to work. Andrew was at camp the first week so we could drive Sport. And the Beast is still drivable (and hungry - no four-course meals at these gas prices). PTL! No one was stuck somewhere without a ride!

Long story short: he gave up on finding the right distributor, bought the generic plus the extra rotor and now the truck once again gets him to work and back without dying but " it still runs bad". He hoped for better today since he reconnected a loose vacuum hose yesterday but that didn't fix the problem.
But what, you ask, does BB & Ranger have to do with Mini?

"I thought this was Mini Saga not All My Children's Vehicles."

I'm glad you asked! Please tell me, how can my favorite mechanic work on Mini when he's fixing everything else?

Act 6

But he HAS been working on Mini. Mini's engine is OUT and she awaits her transplant.

Red's engine is also out and in the garage. Red's robust body is reclining on the slab under the basketball hoop. Andrew gnashes his teeth when he passes by. The brilliant NBA career he was destined for is quickly fading away without the extra shooting practice and all because of Mini's misfortune. This concludes our dramatic interlude.
Do you remember when I told you that while driving Red home Stan noticed a knock in the engine that sounded like something he could fix? When replacing a broken engine with a used engine it is important to fix little things like that first and to replace any little thing that is easily replaced and might be worn.

Be warned. The following picture is not pretty - although I think the guy is a hunk!

Stan pulled the oil pan and saw why Red's oil pressure was running low. Everything was covered in a crunchy black crust.
He pulled the valve covers and saw the same thing. He thinks the engine has not run hot enough and caused the oil to break down into this mess. However it happened, it will have to be cleaned before this engine is a suitable transplant.

See Mini's clean heads? Red can envy them.

That is where we are now in Mini's Saga except for one thing. Stan has been shopping for a bike.

I don't remember if I told you that Stan was given an old '79 Honda cx500. It needs a good amount of work and the friend didn't have time or $ to get it fixed. The more Stan looked at it, the more he found wrong so he started shopping on Craig's List which is where we found both Lurch and Sport for reasonable prices. Stan has been to see at least four since Ranger started giving him trouble. At this point, I believe he has decided to focus on fixing what he has rather than shopping for something else that has its own set of problems. Now the challenge is finding parts for a nearly 30 year old bike. One word: E-BAY!

With another vehicle in line for surgery, Mini is patiently waiting.

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