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September 29th, 2008:
Car drama, disk drama.

Our tow vehicle, a 1996 E350 van, needed a battery and starter. This became painfully obvious when it would not start after filling up at a gas station. Luckily (or unluckily, as you’ll soon read) the gas station had a service bay. The resident “mechanic” swapped in a new battery and eventually installed a new starter. However, when he attemped to move the van, the brake pedal went to the floor and it ended up needing a few new brake lines. After installing the brake lines, he began to process of bleeding the air from the brake lines, and discovered that the bleeder screws on the calipers were seized. So, we’ve just invested in a batter, starter, brake lines, and front calipers. When he was “done” he asked me if I ever had trouble shifting the van into drive. I answered “no”, and he continued to explain that I do now. I had enough and refused to pay any more, driving my crippled van back to the lot at work. The speedometer, radio, headlights, brake lights, and transmission control module were all obviously not working. I eventually (and gently) drove the van home (with Gina tailing me to provide brake lights and a GPS for speedometer). Chris Childs (from Angry Sheep Motorsports had pity on me and came over to have a look. After removing some “bonus” wiring from a 2-way radio and lighting system, he identified a single misplaced wire on the aux. starter relay. A few minutes later and the big orange van was back in business.

During the week-or-so that the van sat dormant in our shop, I lost 3rd gear on my Subaru. I called Chris in a panic and he suggested I shop around for a replacement that he could swap. Using the forums at NASIOC, I learned about Millennium Auto. I also learned that early 2002 model year WRXs had very weak gear sets (check the trans code on the driver’s side strut tower, if it ends with “AA” you have the weak trans). Millennium Auto specializes in STi engine and trans swaps, but they also had a nice beefy 2005 WRX trans. After a little strategic coordination with Chris at Angry Sheep my old trans was out, swapped with the new trans (for a great price) and installed just a few days later. It now shifts smoothly and the gear engagement is precise and clean.

While the other cars were out of commission, I had to take my Camaro out of storage and deal with the crazy insurance rate for a while. However, the fuel level sensor is not working and it constantly reads as if the tank was empty. Enough is enough. I deal with that next spring. The car is back in storage now and I’ll be pulling insurance on it as soon as possible.

The last bit of fun for the past few weeks was the loss of our network storage system that housed our music and movies at home. It looks like the main logic board is toast. I’m hoping that the data can be recovered. Updates will come soon on that front.

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