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Gonna Be Startin’ Something

October 14, 2020

He said he wants to be an aauto mechanic. . .like his father

My lovely wife was repeating to me something one of my sons had said.

Was I a mechanic? Maybe. But, it was something betweeen a side hustle and a hobby. You get paid for a side hustle. . .I didn’t do it for the money. In fact, I refused to accept payment.

But, a hobby. . .a hobby is something you do for fun, for amusement. Something you do to take up time you might otherwise spend doing something useful. . .useful like fixing your kids’ cars.

Another one of my sons recently “gave” our family his car. He’s leaving soon to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He won’t be able to take the car with him.

He is not a gearhead. When he gave us the car back, it was barely running. And it became undrivable shortly afterthat.

It’s what us side-hobbiest do, right? The car needed a new power steering pump. And then, it needed a new serpentine belt. All together about $200 worth of parts and fluids. That fixed most of the problems. And what’s funny is that my son had paid a “professional” mechanic shop to “fix” some of his issues. $1100 later and they still weren’t working.

I’m not saying my repairs were better than theirs. I mean, given the state of the car, there were definitely multiple issues. Maybe they fixed some that I didn’t have to.

But, my son was mildly impressed that tinkering around in our driveway I fixed what the “pros” couldn’t, and at about 20% of the cost.

Funny, he doesn’t let my lovely wife cut his hair for the same reasons and gets the same results. She can do it better and cheaper, but he prefers to pay a “professional.”

Anyway, the new power steering pump got rid of the shimming. The new serpentine belt got rid of the squeeking. The only problem left was a slight noise when turning right. (I’ve worked on problems with less descriptive symptoms. But, not often.)

I asked my fellow-backyard mechanics. I got several suggestions. Wheel bearings. Short axle. CV boots. But, nothing definitive.

And then I did an internet search


It’s worth a shot, right? There were lots of hits. They suggested the usual suspects: wheel bearings, short axle, CV boot and the starter.

But, of course, it couldn’t be the starter. Because the starter is what starts your car. (Sometimes, the names are obvious like that.) And there are indications of a bad starter. The most obvious is that “the car won’t start.” Followed closely by “the car has problems starting.” But, no where in the mechanic’s handbook does it say, “noise while turning left” when you look up starter problems. (There’ not actually a book, of course. But, there’s the internet.)

If you go get your starter replaced it will be cost about $300-$400 dollars at a professional mechanic shop. For me to do it, would cost about $150 in parts, and of course, my time.

Was it worth a $150 gamble that the starter was actually the cause of my “slight noise when turning right” problem? (You know what I chose, of course.)

That was today. The weather is gorgeous. It’s the perfect Fall day, slight breeze, temperatures a mild 70 degrees.

Here is the old and new starter side by side.

Funny, with this repair I didn’t even watch a Youtube video on how to do the repair. I found the starter, removed the motor mount that was in the way, removed the plastic mud shields, disconnected the leads (by feel since they were above the body of the starter.) And then I unscrewed the two 15mm bolts holding the starter to the engine.

Putting it back on was the same thing in reverse. It all seemed to go back together and fortunately there were no left over bolts. It all went back together, but would it start? And if it started, would it make a slight noise when turning right?

And what would you know? It worked. I took the car out for a test drive. In fact, I used the car to take back the old starter to recover the $20 core charge.

And that’s why I don’t consider myself a “real” mechanic. Would I have diagnosed a slight noise when turning right as a problem with the starter? Of course not. That would be crazy to even attempt to make that connection.

But. . .but, I did end up diagnosing the starter as the cause of a slight noise when turning right. Crazy or not, I guess, I was a better mechanic than I gave myself credit for. Maybe as good a mechnic as my son thinks I am.

I had no idea my son felt that way. I guess our kids really are always watching. My son has been out of our house for the past few months. He hasn’t been around to see me working on cars recently.

He’s 17 and trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life. There are worse things than being a gearhead.

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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