Yesterday I chronicled my descent into madness, driven by what should’ve been a simple unbolt-reseal-re-bolt job. Today we’re cover my (partial) climb out of that pit of despair.
On my lunch hour, I roll by AutoZone to get a loaner oil pump priming tool and a new starter bump switch. I wait in line for 20 minutes because that’s apparently how long it take 3 AutoZoners (their term, not mine) to deal with the 4 people in front of me in line. My AutoZoner doesn’t know what an oil pump priming tool is, so I have to point it out to him on the poster to find the part number. It takes him 4 tries to enter my phone number for my rewards card (I spend a lot of money there). Also, apparently they no longer sell starter bump switches because people use them to steal cars. Instead, I buy a starter switch button and a length of wire with two large alligator clips on it. Good to know they have well thought out policies like that.
Back in the garage, I bump the motor over to TDC-ish by shorting one of the wires to the battery terminal (because the switch I just bought is bad, thanks AutoZone!). I’m actually pretty proud of my clever sight-line marking system for lining up the distributor rotor: when the contact’s between the mark on the hose and the motor, it’s in place. I put another mark for the the base and yank it out.
As the distributor comes out, I hear the dreaded tinkle of a small piece of metal falling. Flipping it over confirms my fears: the oil pump drive shaft has sheared off and fallen into the timing cover. Looks like it’s time to break out the magnetic fishing tools and go shopping for a replacement distributor.
…and that’s where we sit as of today. Oddly enough, even though this just got more expensive, I’m more at peace. I’ve got my head wrapped around the problem and know how to fix it, no longer wondering why it’s not working. I’ve got a used Buick HEI distributor on its way for $50 and fishing out the busted tab might require me to get creative with some wire and magnets. I need to use the priming tool to make sure the oil pump gears aren’t bound up too tight. These things are all solvable problems.
A few takeaways from this whole episode, if I may:
- Despite previously recommending them as my chain-store of choice, AutoZone’s really been letting my down lately. On this latest trip, if my cell phone wasn’t dying, I would’ve called the store from the back of the line, as they tell in-store customers to wait while they answer the phone. Bad service is one thing, but this also marked yet another round of them not having what I needed.
- When you’ve got a mind-boggling problem going on, try to keep working on as frequently as possible. It’s frustrating, but you don’t want to be the guy selling a car with “Was running before I took [some part] off two years ago, needs to be re-assembled” in the ad. Also, it’s harder to forget things like whether or not you put oil in something or torqued all the bolts.
- With every Buick-specific failure mode and parts shopping adventure I grow more sympathetic to anyone who’s ever “just dropped in a Chevy small block” (or big block for that matter). Someone needs to explain to me why it’s nobler to keep a thirsty, mediocre motor making mediocre power in place when it’s already a GM transplant to begin with.
Anyway, that (sort of) concludes my latest wrenching saga. Given that I was supposed to finish these fixes two weeks ago and start working on some house remodeling, it’s definitely triggered a round of dialog with The Missus about whether the wiser course is to get out from under this cursed 4×4 or just sack up and keep fixing it as needed (she usually favors the latter). Stay tuned.