Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Thermostat Installation

My vehicle has been overheating, recently. The coolant level has dropped from time-to-time, so we figured that was the most likely cause.

I took it to a local repair shop for diagnostic service and they said it was probably a leak in a tube that's prone to pinhole-sized openings. Unfortunately, they said, that tube isn't available for purchase. The entire manifold needed to be replaced.

The estimate? Over $1600.

I called my stepfather (again) and he said there were much cheaper alternatives. Long story short: The leak could was fixed with the turn of a screw-driver.

If I'd listened to the local folks, that would've been the most expensive screwdriver purchase ever. Again, whether it's due to deception or incompetence, I think I'll go out of my way to find another place to get such work done.

Anyway, that solved the leak issue but there seemed to be another issue with the coolant system. My stepfather thought it was probably the thermostat, but he didn't trust the folks in Tallahassee to install it without doing something unscrupulous like over-charging me or claiming something else was broken. (As an aside, Pep Boys said they'd charge me about $65, parts and labor, and the Auto Super Service Center folks, the ones who gave me a $1600 estimate, said they'd do it for about $110.)

Instead of driving to Atlanta for him to perform the repairs, I asked if I, as a sub-novice, could probably perform the repairs. We agreed that I'd give it a shot, so I purchased a Haynes manual, the thermostat and the gasket from Advanced Discount Auto Parts for around $35.

This past weekend, I gave it a shot. Here are some pictures of the process:

The thermostat housing was kinda hard to locate and then even harder to access, so I got brave and dismantled part of the air intake system. That gave me some elbow room.

That tube, coming from the lower left corner of the picture, leads to the thermostat housing. With the air intake apparatus out of the way, I used a pair of pliers to grip the clamp, slide it back onto the hose, and then disconnect the hose from the themostat housing. This seemed impossible before I dismantled the intake system.

That orange hole is part of the thermostat housing. I had to disconnect it from a brace that lead up to the power steering fluid reservoir so that I could open the thermostat housing.

It's tough to tell, but I think this picture is from after I disconnected that brace. Then, I took the bolts out of the thermostat housing. They're loooooong as hell and I had to put some strength behind it, but they finally came out.

That green opening is the inside of the thermostat housing. The green fluid is the coolant/anti-freeze. I was supposed to drain it from the radiator, first, but it wasn't coming out. No biggie. I put a bucket under this area and collected most of the mess. (A good idea since it's not good for the environment or babies and pets who are attracted to its sweet smell.)

That's the old thermostat I'm removing from the housing. Notice how orange it is? I think (and this is just an uneducated guess) that might've been the cause of the "sticking," which, in turn, caused the vehicle to overheat. Anyway, out it came.

In goes the shiny, new thermostat.

Oh yeah. I forgot to mention that there's an o-shaped gasket (which is just a rubber ring) that had to be pried from above the old thermostat before I could remove it. After putting in the new thermostat, I put in the new gasket.

Now, I'm putting the top of the housing back on.

Here, you may be able to see that I've reattached the hose and secured the clamp around it. I also hooked that brace back up.

This is the air intake system I'd moved out of the way before. Without doing this, I don't know how I would've ever gotten to the thermostat. Unfortunately, neither the manual nor my step-father mentioned moving this sucker out of the way. I just had to have the balls to suggest it and, with his thumbs-up, I gave it a shot. Success!

While I had the air intake system dismantled, I decided to replace the air filter. I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be that dark or not, but this picture shows what a new one looks like (hint: the new one is on the left). So yeah, it was probably well past time to replace it.

Besides using this as an opportunity to pat myself on the back, I wanted to demonstrate how very doable this repair was in case there are other folks out there, like me, who don't have any experience repairing cars.

I have little doubt that this saved me about $100 plus whatever "extras" these sneaky mechanics might've tried to slip in there.


B. Good said...

The new air filter is......the black one on the right? Or did you mean the white one on the left?

In any case, CONGRATS! on gettin your hands dirty, and saving yourself $100. How handy! I've been meaning to educate myself about cars, but I'm sure I can always look it up online.

How long did this whole process take you? Are the mechanics worth the labor that they charge?

chele said...

Bravo! Bravo! I am really happy for you because mechanics are truly the devil! I'm still trying to learn how to change my own oil.

Miz JJ said...

Impressive! I am thankful to have a fair and honest mechanic. I know little things about cars, like how to change a tire, but for the most part I leave the real work to the professionals.

West said...

b. good: You were right about the new one being the one on the left. Sorry. I get a lil dyslexic, sometimes.

chele: Danke sehr.

miz jj: I've found myself getting screwed just a BIT too much, so I'm prepared to dive under the hood as much as I can.

Besides, it's one of those things that people associate with manhood, so it feels good to be able to fix a lil sumpin' sumpin'.

James Burnett said...

Kudos. Car repair, even the "simple" stuff is no joke. I used to keep a Chilton's manual in the trunk of my car, 'cause I refused to pay for any repairs short of a complete overhaul. Now, I'm too lazy, and I even pay for oil changes. But what the hell? I'm getting old.

Femigog said...

Wow! This was really good post. I dont drive but I love how to texts with pics--I know it is silly but I do. This was great...and kudos for doing your own repairs...

YouToldHarpoTaBeatMe said...

That's what I love about shady tree mechanics. Get 'em some Budweiser and fried okra and that GOT'chu!

My Dad worked for Chevrolet, so he walks me thru alot of stuff while I'm sitting in the AutoZone parking lot. Dad has saved me from having to nearly take out loans on my truck so many times.

Keith said...

Whenever I open the hood f my car it's more for show than anything else. I say to my wife "well, everything looks ok to me so I guess we'll have to take it in for a computerized diagnostic." Then the car gets fixed.

Because of your guts, you get bragging rights, whereas the rest of us get credit card bills.

beef mug said...

nicely done... I need to learn these things also... I don't trust mechanics either...

auto repair manuals said...

Nice writeup. What car is this for. I usually just refer to the manufacturers workshop manual but this is quite comprehensive too!