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Making It Better Made It Worse

October 25, 2018

Last week I “fixed” my son’s car. I replaced his fuel pump. I put “fixed” in quotation marks because, of course I didn’t fix it. I did manage to repair a major fire hazard, but the fuel pump stayed dead.

Well, today I fixed it. And I realized it was my fault it didn’t work. Last month I replaced the power steering pump and the alternator. I had to tear apart a good share of the engine to get to the power steering pump. And I ended up doing the repair three times. It was only a couple weeks after fixing the power steering pump that the fuel pump went out.

Here’s what was wrong with the fuel pump.

What you are looking at is the oxygen sensor wiring that was “pinched” between the alternator bracket and the engine block. Wires aren’t designed to be pinched. In fact, they tend to fray and eventually short out. It makes the entire system shut down. In fact, it behaves just like a fuel pump going out.

I put some of this stuff on the frayed wires.

I replaced the fuse, added a couple gallons of gas and the car started right up.

Working on cars always makes me a little philosophical. I had nothing to do with the failed power steering pump. But, by “fixing” the power steering pump, I broke the fuel pump. (Well, technically I broke the oxygen sensor, but that’s a minor point in hindsight.) To “fix” the fuel pump, I replaced the fuel pump, fuel filter and fuel pump relay. Oh, and in the process, I replaced the paracord holding the fuel tank to the car with an actual bolt.

The fuel pump project cost about $150. There was (probably) nothing wrong with the fuel pump. I can say with certainty that the fuel filter hadn’t ever been replaced. And of course, the safety factor around the paracord was huge.

But, this last repair, the step that actually got the car to go from “broken” to “working” didn’t actually cost anything at all. So, I spent $150 to fix a problem that didn’t exist (faulty fuel pump) and ended up fixing a potenitally deadly problem that I didn’t know existed (fuel tank held on by paracord.) Then, I spent $0 to fix a problem (pinched oxygen sensor wiring) that was my own mistake from a previous repair (replace power steering pump and alternator.)

I’ve spent a lot of time in the engine compartment and under my son’s car this summer. Maybe sometime I should ask him to actually give me a ride in it.

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

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