Saturday, July 17, 2010

Annals of DIY

All physical labor is now a realm that's entirely owned by The Three Stooges.

Over my lifetime, I've changed the oil on a car somewhere around 100 times.
(Keep in mind that, in the bad old days, the standard change interval was 3,000 miles.)

I finally changed the oil on our Mazda MPV, and managed to do basically EVERYTHING wrong.

OK, I'm now old enough to not much enjoy crawling under cars, so, for the past eight years I've been paying people to change the oil on my wife's minivan. It's irked me, but

1) There's a shroud that needs to be removed to reach the oil filter (and then replaced)
2) The drain is far enough back that it needs car ramps to reach comfortably - and my ramps are too steep to drive the MPV up
3) It's a 5-quart system, which is a lot more mess to dispose of
than my usual 3-qt-cars.
And (needless to say)
4) I hate that car with every fiber of my being, and don't WANT to work on it.

Tracking down the MPV's current gas leak, I had occasion to look under the engine room, and discovered that, at some point, the chimps at Jiffy Lube have snapped off the part of the shroud that covers the oil filter.

Which is actually a GOOD thing.

OK, the "underneath" portion of an oil change for the MPV used to consist of ten or twelve steps, depending upon what you count as a discrete therblig:
a) Remove THREE bolts, remove shroud
b) remove drain bolt
c) remove filter
d) replace drain bolt
e) replace filter
f) replace shroud, run home THREE shroud bolts.

With the shroud now pre-broken for me, the task now reduces to the same four steps (b-e) as any other oil change. So I went out and got myself a set of MPV-compliant car ramps and changed the oil. (And now I'm the owner of TWO cheap sets of car ramps...)

My oil-change kit is small enough to fit in a hand box in the trunk of the Miata.
The drain bolt on the MPV is 15mm, not the 17mm that I keep in the car (, space being at a premium in the Miata trunk, I don't keep a full socket set there...) - so I had to go inside and rustle around my tool chest until I came up with a 15mm socket. ("Spread out, spread out!")

OK, climb back under and remove the crankcase drain plug - and there was enough oil in the crankcase (and shooting out through a smaller hole...) to send the stream several inches further than I usually see, so it missed the drain pan entirely, and splashed on the driveway.
("Hey, FELLAS!")

Five quarts is a lot more than 3 quarts - so the drain pan I've been using for at least 20 years of Miata changes FOLDED under the weight, splashing a cup of hot used motor oil on my shoes, on the driveway, etc. ("Nyuck nyuck nyuck")

(Note to self: buy a bigger, stronger, more rigid drain pan.)
And then the drain pan was full enough to overflow its pouring spout, spilling more used oil down the outside of the Used Oil jugs.... ("Hrrr-RUFF!")

Oh, and I dropped the drain bolt into the drain pan. Which I've done before, of course; but this time I managed to pour the bolt INTO the 'used oil' jug, and had to decant the oil back and forth until I could fish the thing out.
("Woooo wooooo wooooo wooooo wooooo wooooo....")

If I had been deep enough under the car to require the use of my garage creeper, I would have done my version of the "Curley-spinning-on-the-floor" dance move.

Jiffy Lube is now something like $36?, $26? with coupons? Something like that. Even NAPA is $27, with sales tax.

DIY cost me something like $13, so I saved at least ten bucks, maybe twenty.
I'll put that toward replacing my oil-splashed shoes....

Addendum: On the walk-around, I spotted a bubble on the front-right tire, something that I would NOT have caught had I simply gone to Jiffy Lube. So, it's entirely possible that a DIY oil change saved our lives.

Tomorrow's Thrilling Installment: On to BJ's to buy new tires.

Update: I TRIED to put a pair of tires on it - but the shop REFUSED to let it in when it's dripping gas. So the new tires have to wait until the gas leak is fixed, probably Thursday.

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