February 8, 2012

These Are the Days of Ludwig's and Gertie's Lives

We haven't mentioned anything about what's actually going on with our cars in a while because nothing has been actually going on with our cars for a while. Here's an update of sorts.

Ludwig's new engine has about 750 miles on it and still runs poorly. I'm 99.44% certain that all it is is maladjusted carburetors (they're running really rich). After an oil change, a valve adjustment, and doing the timing I could probably get to work on dialing in the carbs. But it's cold up here* (except when a Chinook blows through in the middle of the night and it gets into the 40s) which keeps me out of the garage. Also, Ludwig, poorly running as he is, is our only transportation and I'm hesitant to do a rushed and stressed carb job (you know, because it's cold) and render him undrivable or worse. We're saving money to buy a garage heater so maybe things are looking up.

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In the meantime Ludwig takes us on trips of minor length, to the grocery stores and back and sometimes to the free clothing exchange in Opportunity. During the highway stints he really shines, as I think the heat cleans off the spark plugs fouled by the otherwise rich running. But (of course) we daren't take him too far, because his starter has a bad bushing and one of these times I fear he might not start altogether. I could easily replace the bushing <knocks on wood> but it's one of those deals where if you twitch at just the wrong time, you're in for an engine drop. The cold conditions would only add to the stress of an otherwise very simple but delicate job and it's not something my sometimes pathologically cautious nature is willing to risk just yet.

After a few thousand miles of basically trouble-free and highish mileage driving, last February Gertrude started acting funny. Like, under steady pedal she'll die off to almost nothing, then back up, then die off, then back up, and so on. I'm reasonably sure its a bad signal coming from some fuel injection part(s), incorrectly cutting off the flow of gas, then giving it back, then cutting it off, wash, rinse, repeat. It could probably be fixed fairly simply--narrow it down to the bad part then fix or replace--but since we've owned her a time bomb's been ticking away a little bit behind and to the inside of Gertie's rear passengerside tire: her #1 exhaust valve is either stretching, or that valve's seat is sinking into the cylinder head, or both, I guess. Either way, if that bomb goes off it quite possibly'll be curtains for the whole engine (ask me how I know). So it's best not to drive her anyway (my superstitious nature says this f.i. problem is Gertie's way of telling me to fix the head), as for once--just once!--I'd like to take out an engine and get it fixed preemptively, not after it's already gone totally kablooey.

Anyway, so that's where we are.**

*Readers inclined to draw conclusions about the relative uninhabitability of our location (in the middle of a continent; one mile up; 496 miles closer to the North Pole than to the Equator) compared to their own languid climes are good-naturedly invited to stick it; ceteris paribus, there is simply no way an unheated garage in SoCal, say, is better than a heated garage in Montana. We just need to find a way to heat our damn garage.

**This post isn't about martyrdom, but about full disclosure.

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