Monday, August 15, 2005

Having Fun Yet

Sunday morning I thought I would change the oxygen sensors on Irma's car. There are two. Unfortunately, I believe Cadillac engineers gave no thought whatsoever to replacing parts on this engine after it was installed. The idea must have been to make a really good engine that lasts well into the second owner but when parts start aging you just throw it away. What do they care at that point?

The front sensor wasn't too bad, just had to remove the upper engine mount and air cleaner and squeeze your hand down to it. Disconnecting the electrical connection was actually harder because of it's location.

The rear sensor is a completely different story. You cannot reach it from the bottom - just forget it - ain't gonna happen. You can see it from the top through a sliver between the engine and fire wall (actually the vent blower assembly). Remove the upper strut brace and the bank of ignition coils. Look again and wonder if this is actually possible. It's close to a straight shot down so getting the socket on it wasn't too bad, you just have to add some long extensions. Loosening the sensor, you soon find the wires getting tangled up and jammed between the engine and tool. It helps to do this in the hot Florida sun so the sweat pours off you and lubricates the engine, but not much.

After much aggravation and cursing, just get some vise grips and pull the wires loose so you can continue loosening the sensor. Don't forget to break the connector so you can't give up and leave the old one in there. Having a 5 year old around asking a bunch of questions kind of adds to the excitement here. Forget about using the socket now - you got it loose and it will not come any further with the socket - it's stuck. Luckily, the sensor had anti-seize compound on the threads and can acually be turned by turning the wires while wiggling the sensor. Slowly but surely. Got it? Yes, it's out. Now take a break, drink plenty of fluids.

Go back out there and take a look. Start worrying because the hardest part is yet to come. Try putting the new sensor in the socket and guiding it down into the hole. No problem, right? Now try to actually get the threads started. Don't crossthread them. The angle is wrong and it's not possible. Consider using a knuckle on the extension but notice the socket is going to break the wires if you try that again. Forget that idea, you have to do it by hand. Try every position possible to get your hand down there. Cursing doesn't help, but do it anyway. It doesn't help to burn the back of your hand on the lawnmower exhaust 2 days before trying this, so don't do it. You will just tear the skin off the back of your hand and even that doesn't give you enough room to get your hand down there.

Take a break before you really break something. I know watching the car burn in your driveway would look pretty good right now but just walk away.

OK, ready to try again? Good. Try and try and try. Try some more. Stop trying. Think. You need smaller hands. Look at your 5 year old son and wonder if he has the dexterity to do it. Look at the 13 year old and realize his hands are as big as yours. Look at 5 year old again. No, that's a very last resort. Think some more.

Keep thinking, your almost there. Who's car is this anyway? Irma's car. Irma can't drive her car if this part doesn't go back in and Irma really hates driving your car. Hmmm. Irma has smaller hands. "Oh, Irma! I need your help here!"

Just explain the situation to your wife. Emphasis the fact that if this sensor isn't in the car she can't drive it. Show her your bloody stumps hands. Get a carpet and put it on top of the engine so she can lay down and work.

Hey, it worked. It took a while and a lot of false starts but it's in.

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