From : "Aj"
Things I learned as a result of my exploding van problem
Mon, 1 Apr 2002 16:24:58 -0000
For those of you joining us in the middle of the story:
* On Friday, I left work early to head out to Ben Amis' grandfather's ranch
in order to engage in productive and wholesome recreation (mending fences,
fishing, shooting birdhouses, that sort of thing)
* Ben's grandfather lives approximately 70 miles north of Downtown Dallas
(aka "Oklahoma"), about 5 miles northeast of the intersection of Route 289
and rural road 134.
* I took the tollway up, which was entertaining because Fletch broke my van's
window about six months ago (it won't open anymore), so at each tollbooth I
had to open the door to pay the toll. Which of course terrified the poor
toll-both workers, who would back away and point at the "STAY IN YOUR
VEHICLE" signs that were posted.
* My van is a piece of shit.
* At mile 60 or so, at the intersection of Route 289 and rural road 100, my
van made a series of crunchy noises and died horribly. While the engine did
not actually fall out, it certainly wanted to.
* Naturally, it stopped directly across road 100 (a one-lane gravel road with
ditches on either side). When it wouldn't turn over, I got out and pushed it
into the ditch to allow pickup trucks to pass and called Triple A.
* AAA texas is staffed entirely by morons. After asking six times for a
landmark near where I broke down, the finally accepted the fact that I was
surrounded by miles of prairie with nothing -- no houses, no stoplights, no
* The then proceeded to call me every 20 minutes with incorrect information
about when my tow truck would be there.
* A this point, Ben, Chris, Adam, Matt, and Jesse showed up. Since we had
nothing else to do but wait for the truck, they passed the time by
alternately hurling rocks at signs & my van and begging me to let them take
the van up to the ranch and shoot it. I would have let them, except a) it
had a full tank of gas and b)it wouldn't be right to blow up the van without
Chuck & Fletch present.
* Eventually the tow truck got there and towed me to the mechanic in Celina,
TX (population: 625).
* Note I said "the mechanic," not "a mechanic." There's only one and his
address on his business card is "under the water tower." I'm quite serious.
* The mechanic closed for the weekend 5 minutes after I got there.
* After finding my way back home 60 miles away, I spoke with the mechanic on
the phone this morning. Bubba thinks he may be able to fix it for $300 but
there's no guarantees. When pressed for specifics he became slightly
evasive. However, I checked with my local chop-shop (if I haven't told you
about my chop shop, ask sometime. It's the greatest illegal automotive
repair facility on earth, and it's a whole different story) and they think
the price is fair.
* This is good, because my plan was to simply abandon the van in Celina if
the price was over $300. Mechanic's lein my ass.
* I also realized that the blue-book value of the van is $400. If I strip
out factory new parts (that I've either bought & added myself or had done
recently), the value of the parts alone is $600. The van is worth less than
* Apparently, you should change your timing belt before it breaks. If the
teeth strip off the belt, it will still be under tension and will look okay
but your car still won't start since it has no grip.
* As I also learned, foreign-made engines, engines with very high
compression, and most modern cars have interference engines which means the
piston encroaches on the space that the valve is in during the compression
stroke. So if your timing belt breaks your engine with be banged all to hell
and you will have to go buy a new car.
* Old domstic piece of shit vans, on the other hand, have free-cylcing
engines which means the inept designers were unable to make an interference
engine back in 1988. The upshot is that when the timing belt breaks, some
guy named Bubba under the water tower gets to charge you $300 but your valves
probably aren't bent and the engine is probably still okay.
* So at some point I get to make the trek back out to lovely Celina to get
the van. Since I'll be there anyway, I'm thinking of going back to Tioga, TX
(about 30 miles away from Celina), where they have the best BBQ joint ever.