Friday, August 23, 2002

The bad



For the past six months my car on the mainland, The Fridge, has been stalling at random. :( My friend E (R's wife), who has been driving it while I drove her car in Maui, replaced the plugs and wires with no effect, and took it to the Subaru dealer who threw up his hands and charged her/me $90 for saying "dunno" (I HATE Subaru dealers). I told E not to worry about it and I'd have a go at figuring it out when I got back. I looked online and the most likely culprit seemed to be the fuel pump, so I ordered one wholesale from the web when I was in San Diego (I learned I could shift into neutral and restart the engine without losing too much speed, to get around, but it was a pain and obviously needed fixing), got it in two days, and put it in in a few minutes. But it still stalled. My next thought was to replace the fuel pressure regulator, but the game of ordering and installing new parts until I had replaced the car seemed a sub-optimal one, so I took it to a Subaru mechanic I found in LA. I told the story, and suggested testing or replacing the pressure regulator, but he (an old Iraqi (fled Iraq 'cuz he's Christian)) insisted it was the fuel pump (he's never seen a failed pressure regulator in 25yrs). "Yes, that's what I thought, that's why I replaced it with a new one, but it didn't help." "It's the pump." "Uh, no..." -- this went on for twenty minutes. I lost, he put in his pump -- it stalled again (each time he'd put in a part I'd have to drive it around LA until it stalled, usually after twenty minutes or so. I got to know the scary neighborhood.) His next guess was the crank sensor, which he ordered from a junkyard. I walked a few miles and found a public library (full of untouched books and a line to use the net (mostly kids playing games)). The part didn't come in 'till the next morning. Car stalled. This went on for days... install part, test drive, stall, repeat. Here's the list:

crank sensor

fuel pump (#2!!!)

ignition coil

ECU computer (!!!)

fuel pump relay

cam sensor

more relays

extra ground wire to engine block

Meanwhile, I read the repair manual I had purchased and tried to figure it out myself. The old guy's son, Eddie, also an employee, showed me a good Kabob deli during a test drive. And I tried to convince Eddie that a timing light could be used when driving the car to see if it was getting spark as it stalled (B's idea) but he didn't understand it at all, no matter how I explained and DEMONSTRATED how it would work and give useful information, and wouldn't do it. Sigh.

I was staying at R's beautiful house, and eating E's very good food, but he made me lift weights with him -- crazy man is very determined to lose his gut and his determination has spilled over to hurt others in his office. I hitched rides to and from the garage in creative ways -- three different friends in the valley, and two of R's coworkers to whom I promised good Kabobs. One friend picked me up on a street corner in Van Nuys next to an army of day laborors waiting for work -- that was funny, since I didn't look like the hardest working man in the bunch.

After four days of this (!!!) they had only charged me $200 (for a couple of ordered parts and labor) but they gave up. They told me I should take it to an electrician. (!!!$$$!!!) The more I learned from the book, the more my head screamed "pressure regulator" -- so I insisted on ordering it from the junkyard for another $50. "You're wasting your money, but OK."

Now I'm in Santa Barbara.

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gar@lisi.com