Monday, February 07, 2011

Just A Moment To Reflect

This post was meant to go up yesterday, but I was a stuck in the house all day with the flu bug carefully lodged in my gastrointestinal tract. I am better today, so it was just a 24 hour flu.

Many years back my dad and I went out to the old Ford LTD and found a pool of fluid under the hood and on the driveway. Seemed that something was dripping out of the car and the likely suspect was the power steering pump. First, it was covered in fluid, and second the color of the fluid would match that purpose unlike black oil or something green like antifreeze from the radiator. It seemed to Dad that this would be a good excuse to go out to the junkyard and possibly hunt down a replacement.

Off to the junkyard where we asked the fellow in the office how much a power steering pump would cost. Something like twenty dollars was what he said, and we were off to go traipsing out into the field to find a suitable replacement. We stumbled upon a station wagon that was also a Ford LTD (to which I was not even aware that Ford made such a beast) and our guess was this might be a good candidate. Up went the hood and then lo and behold, there was a power steering pump that looked identical to what ours looked like, though not covered in fluid. Dad grabbed his small toolkit which had a few choice items and got out the socket and ratchet wrench to start removing the bolts.

Now a thing to note about where the power steering pump is located. It is close to the radiator at the front of the engine compartment. Being expertly designed, it fit into this space with a few inches of room between it and the frame that held the radiator in place. This is important to remember.

When he got the wrench on the bolt he started to work the bolts off. The first one or two came off without an issue. So easy in fact, that we both didn't quite pay attention to the one bolt that was being backed out from its hole towards the radiator. We must have been remarking on the luck we had in finding this pump in the first place. Oops.

The ratchet wrench allows you to loosen or tighten a bolt without having to constantly fit an open-ended wrench onto the bolt, turn, and then pull the wrench off the bolt and get it back on. The ratchet mechanism allows you to keep the wrench in place and just move the handle back and forth. The interchangeable sockets just fits right over the bolt, but it will extend the wrench's height by an inch or two, depending on the size of the socket. The means to reverse the procedure is controlled by a dial on the back of the wrench. Now, as Dad kept turning the wrench to loosen the bolt, it moved further and further away from the power steering pump, and closer and closer to the radiator.

And now the predicament. The wrench on its tenth turn or so was about 1/8th of an inch from the radiator. Too little space to set the ratchet back to the tighten mode, and thereby reverse its direction. The bolt was still not out nor was it going to come out. My dad and I had just succeeded in impinging the wrench into the radiator with no means to undo what was done. Nor did we have enough tools to remove any other part from the engine block to save the wrench. We also did not have a power steering pump, our main mission in coming.

Along walked a friend that my dad knew from work and we were in luck; he had his full tool set in his car which he kindly got for us. About thirty or forty minutes later, enough parts came off the engine that allowed us to get the wrench back, and then the remaining bolts on the pump. Finally success, but with some mild embarrassment.

Which brings us back to the driveway and the power steering pump. We removed the bad one in the car and knew very well not to use the ratchet wrench to finish the one bolt, and then installed the new pump, and lastly we connected the hoses to the pump and poured in the power steering fluid. Dad told me to hop in and get the car started which I did dutifully. He then told me to crank the steering wheel to give the system a test while idling. The hood was open and he was standing right near the pump when I cranked the wheel, and out shot a spurt of fresh power steering fluid. It might have even hit the house it went streaming out so violently.

I stopped the car and looked at my dad's face to figure out what was wrong. Unfortunately, we never checked to see that the leak was not coming from the power steering pump unit - it was from the hose that connected to it which apparently had a very minute crack. We laughed at the whole episode and made plans to get a replacement hose and fix the car the right way, though if we had done it the 'right' way to start we would not have had this fun story to tell.

So, this is a great memory I have of my father. He died five years ago on the 6th of February. I still miss him a great deal but you hold on to the memories of someone you love for a very long time. I felt like this was a good time to share just one of them.


Anonymous said...

Nice story, David!

fraz said...

Oh! And hope you're feeling better today!

K said...

Your dad was a fantastic man. One of the more superb beings one could hope to meet. That is a great story.