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That Looked Way Easier On TV (YouTube)

February 10, 2016

Next remove the cam shaft bolt and take off the rear camshaft.

How tough could it be, right? The guy on the YouTube video made it look like you could just unscrew it. Of course, his engine also looked like you could eat off it. 

Yesterday afternoon I started to replace the waterpump on my 1996 Lexus ES300. Being a modern mechanic, I did what every modern backyard mechanic does, I went to YouTube and put in 

Lexus es300 replace waterpump

I found a really helpful 14 minute video. And here, I thought it would take hours! I also have a manual. I printed it out from a .pdf file because we are all of us, children of the digital age. 

I also have a spare engine that I can reference for those hard to see spots. 

Okay, so I realized that it was going to take longer than 14 minutes, but just because you see someone else do something, doesn’t mean that you know how to do it, or even that you can do it. Not until you’ve been been through the process and practice, do you start to gain the proficiency needed to fix problems. 

I enjoy working on cars. I don’t enjoy having to work on cars. However, my wife actually drives two cars. She has a Honda Civic for everyday driving and a 15 passenger van for when she needs to drive carpool. I’m not without a vehicle, but I really kind of like my car. 

I started well enough yesterday. Several pieces came off the engine pretty easily. I jacked up the car and put it on jack stands so I could remove the right front tire. And with my book and my movie, I muddled through. Eventually, I was to the point where I had to remove the timing belt. Here I stopped. 

An engine rotates really, really, REALLY fast. If your car has a tachometer, you’ve seen that needle climb up past the numbers 2, 3, 4, maybe a 5. If you’ve really pushed it, you might get it to the 6. That’s six THOUSAND RPMs, or rotations per minute. Six thousand rotations per minute means that your engine is making 100 rotations every second. And there are a lot of moving parts in your engine. My Lexus IS a V-6. That means that there are three Pistons on one side of the engine and three pistons an the other side. It takes four piston strokes for a complete cycle. The first stroke moves the piston down and pulls in air and gas. The second stroke pushes the piston up and it compresses the air/gas mixture. The third stroke, called the power stroke is when the spark plug fires and ignites that air/gas mixture and the rapidly expanding air/gas mixture pushes the piston back down. The final stroke is another up stroke and it expels the exhaust. 

To keep track of incoming/outgoing gases you have two valves (actually, four, but you can kind of think of them as fulfilling these two functions) at the top of the piston. One valve let’s in air the other one leads to the exhaust system. Obviously those two valves cannot both be open at the same time. The opening and closing is controlled by the cam shaft. In my case, there are two cam shafts. The pistons are connected to the crankshaft. And the reason the engine is referred to as a “V” is that all six Pistons connect to the same crankshaft. 

Now, picture it, you have a crankshaft, two camshafts six pistons, six sparkplugs and 24 valves. And all of these parts have to stay in perfect sync while the engine is turning over at up to 100 rotations per second. The magic carpet that keeps all of that together is not actually a carpet. It’s the timing belt. 

And it was at the point of removing the timing belt that I stopped. Because, in addition to the movie, the book and the spare engine, I also had one more asset; my neighbor who helped me rebuild the car in the first place. Of all the parts to make absolutely sure you get right, the timing belt is probably most important. My neighbor came by late in the afternoon and my 16 year old ‘gearhead’ son got home from school and we got the timing belt off and continued disassembling. 

(Yes, that is ice on the ground.)

We finally quit when it started to get dark and the temperature dropped from the balmy 37 degrees we’d started with to the low 30’s.

Oh and that camshaft bolt that he removed? A LOT harder than it looked on TV.

Today is all about the car. Hopefully with a few more hours of work, we can finally accomplish what the guy on YouTube managed in 14 minutes.  

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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