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Why Isn’t It Done Yet?

August 26, 2020

I broke something today. It was a small thing. I went to tip over a piece of the engine I was working on and the cam shaft fell out. That might not be so bad. Cam shafts are cast steel. They are pretty tough. And actually the break was a tiny thing. Just a small piece of metal on the end of the cam shaft. It’s about the size of quarter. It’s a piece that keeps the cam shaft in sync.

It screws onto the end of the cam shaft. Replacing it takes just a few seconds.

But, there’s a problem. I didn’t have it.

I’ve spent the last few weeks rebuilding the engine on my daughter’s 2003 Kia Rio. I’m just rebuilding the top end; the valves. I took the aluminum head to a machine shop to be retooled.

I got it back this week. I started the install on Monday. It’s actually going reasonably well. It’s a not like replacing an alternator or a starter. There are multiple gaskets to be replaced, and specific torque settings for the head bolts and manifolds.

And then there was a small problem. Literally a tiny problem. When a head gets redone in a machine shop they clean up all the pieces and use precise equipment to make sure that every piece of the head lines up perfectly and that the surfaces are exactly smooth.

Except it wasn’t. One of the lifters wouldn’t fit back into the head. There was a very small nick in the side of the hole it was supposed to fit into. And that was where my repair came to a screeching halt.

Literally, I cannot go one step further. I’m in the middle of open heart surgery and I ran out of. . .I don’t know. . blood? Scalpels? Screws? Maybe this wasn’t the best analogy.

So, I had to make a trip back to the machine shop. It would be easier if I could take the head with me. But, I’ve already secured it to the block with new head bolts. The bolts are special. they have to be installed in a specific manner. You screw them in and then tighten them to 36 ft lbs. It takes a special wrench called a troque wrench. It can measure the each force, or torque placed on a bolt. Once you’ve tightened the bolts to 36 ft lbs, you then loosen then. Next, they get tightened to 18 ft lbs. Of course, that’s a lot less and barely more than you could tighten them with your fingers. The final step is you mark each bolt and give them a 90 degree turn. This tightens them up to about 50 ft lbs.

The problem is that you can’t reuse them if you take them out. The process stretches them out. If I were to take the head off, I’d have to order new head bolts.

It was about this time that I had my unfortunate fumble. So, in addition to a trip to the machine shop I also needed a trip to the junk yard.

Fortunately, it’s a lot easier to pull a cam shaft out of a junk car than from a car you want to put back together. So, I spent this afternoon going back over work I’d already done.

Oh, and while I was at it I stopped by to pick up a new thermostat and spark plugs.

So, instead of spending the day putting the car back together I spent it redoing work that was already done once. And why did I lose a day? It wasn’t a big thing, it wasn’t a big thing. It was a small, even a tiny thing and then another.

Stay safe

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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