The Price We Pay

Enjoying our cars will cost us, one way or another.

Andy Bolig - March 14, 2013 10:00 AM


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Nobody rides for free! How many times have we heard or quoted that old saying?

One way or another, it’s probably true and many times, we’re the ones who wind up paying the price. The cost may not be easily quantified in greenbacks, but it was paid for ahead of time, either in time, money, sweat or even, blood.

It’s no secret that automotive technology has surged ahead, providing increased performance, drivability AND fuel mileage. All that “technology” has to go somewhere — under the hood, behind the dashboard or some other area where the engineers could find enough space within the car. This has led to a population explosion of sensors, hoses and wires designed to tie all that new-fangled, battery-operated goodness together. The thought of navigating through that maze of modern wiring has struck fear in more than one enthusiast. It doesn’t make adding or subtracting parts any easier, that’s for sure.

I can remember popping the hood on a new at the time, 1996 Chevy truck. I was amazed at how much its maker had cleaned up the engine bay by thoughtfully placing the wiring where it made the most sense and combining the necessary circuits while eliminating the redundant ones. The fact that I could see the spark plugs of the engine sparked a seed of hope that we might be on the right track with this technology stuff. Clearly, manufacturers were starting to get a grip on how to package it.

Problem is that my 1985 Corvette was built long before those space-conscious corporate memos were even penned. Every time I try to put my meat hooks into some crevice to get something done, it’s usually occupied by something harder, sharper or hotter than I typically like. There are fasteners on this car that I swear are more like time capsules than threaded objects. They were installed when the car was manufactured, and NEVER intended for anyone to have to visit them again, for any reason. A definite “You can’t get there from here” scenario if there ever was one.

I found myself adjusting the crank trigger on my LT1 and I surely paid the price. It goes without saying that it would be located down low, in front of the engine. What you might NOT know is that it’s immediately beneath the water pump and tucked tightly behind the A/C hoses and radiator. It’s a tight fit, but if you twist and turn just right, you can get your hand in there with a stubby wrench and make the necessary adjustments. I took the car out for a test drive, and if the stars aligned, everyone is happy. If not, that somewhat uncomfortable environment has now become inhospitably hot – 205 degrees hot to be exact.

I could either come back tomorrow and try again, or forge ahead through the minefield of heat and hoses. I proceeded for the same reason that we enthusiasts can’t sleep well at night, knowing that our cars aren’t running just perfect. It NEEDS fixed, I NEED to fix it!

After a few tries and test drives, I finally got the sensor dialed in to where the engine idles and revs respectably. I was finishing snugging the locknut just as the blisters were finished forming from my repetitious contact with the nearby water pump, now searing hot from several drives. Everything from shop rags to bath towels were tried to keep the burn rate somewhere below second-degree.

In the end, I think we’ve exorcized the timing gremlin from in front of the engine. I may have gotten bit a few times, but as I took the car out for a joyride last night, the scabs were forming almost as fast as the grin on my face. I just hope the next time he decides to take up residence in my car, he opts for a larger living space!