Auto Service World
Feature   March 1, 2003   by Rick Cogbill a.k.a. Slim Shambles

Wood-n’t You know it?

By the time Tooner came to work Monday morning, the coffeepot was almost empty. "Huh! Just when I need a good pick-me-up, too."I noticed sawdust on his work boots. "So, the little woman had you poundi...

By the time Tooner came to work Monday morning, the coffeepot was almost empty. “Huh! Just when I need a good pick-me-up, too.”

I noticed sawdust on his work boots. “So, the little woman had you poundin’ nails on the weekend, did she?”

He rolled his eyes. “No matter how bad it gets pullin’ wrenches for a living, it beats home renovations any day.”

“Renovations!” A chill ran down our spines.

Tooner nodded. “Yup. And not just any renovations. She decided to redo the bathroom, no less. If I see another piece of rotten wood again, I’m gonna scream.”

Basil chuckled. “Murphy has a law about bathroom renovations; ‘Every attempt at repairs will uncover two more things that need repairing.'”

“Exactly! Once I removed the shower liner, I found soggy drywall. Then the water pipes needed upgrading…” The list went on and on. Before he was through, none of us wanted touch a carpenter’s hammer again.

I tossed him some keys. “Here. I’ll give you something solid to work on. Markus is having a no-heat problem with his Cadillac Seville. See what you can find.”

Tooner slid back his chair. “Gladly. It’ll feel good to use real tools again.”

Soon Tooner was back with his diagnosis. “It’s a head gasket problem. The car was low on coolant, and the cooling system is building up excessive pressure. Should we call him?”

I sighed and dialed the number. Markus was from Switzerland, and his English was not the greatest, especially on the phone. “…head gasket, Markus. The head gask…no, not the headlights…uh, look, it’s going to cost lots of money, okay?…Okay, bye.”

I hung up the phone. “He said he only paid $3,500 for the car and it’s been running great up until now, so go ahead.”

Tooner shrugged. “Order me up some gaskets for a 5.7 litre diesel, 1985 vintage.” He went back to work, and all was quiet until a loud yell from the back bay brought us running. We found Tooner standing beside the Caddy with his eyes bugged wide open, gripping the fender for support.

“I don’t believe it!” he hollered. “Is this some kind of cruel joke?”

On the workbench I could see various pieces of engine, like the upper intake manifold, air cleaner and valve covers. Tooner held up what appeared to be a spacer shaped like the gasket between the upper and lower intake manifolds. “Look!” he gasped, his hand trembling. “It-it’s wood! Somebody made wooden spacers for the upper intake manifold!”

I looked closely and sure enough, the spacers were made out of 1/2″ plywood. “Why would anyone…”

“There’s more!” he interrupted. Reaching into the intake valley, he grabbed the injector pump and shook it back and forth. “The pump’s not bolted down; it’s held in place with a piece of wood!”

For some reason, the mounting flanges on the injector pump were too wide for the valley, and somebody had cut them off to get the pump into place. Then they used a six-inch piece of hockey stick jammed in the back to hold it tight. “That’s bizarre,” I exclaimed. “There’s no way to properly set the injector pump timing. How could this car have run so well?”

By now Tooner was shaking so badly we had to help him into the coffee room. I left Basil to pour lots of coffee down his throat, and went in search of answers.

What I found was that in 1985, the Cadillac 5.7L diesel engine used an aluminum intake manifold for that particular year only. On Markus’ car, someone had replaced it with a cast iron manifold. As a consequence, the injector pump wouldn’t fit.

Making the rounds of the auto-recycling yards, I discovered that the aluminum intakes were not to be found. But I remembered that last year a nearby shop had worked on an early Cadillac, also with a diesel engine. So I called up Winston.

“Winston, old buddy,” I said, “I’m looking for some engine parts for an ’85 Seville, 5.7 diesel. An aluminum intake, to be exact. Have you got anything left?”

The phone grew silent. “Uh, Winston, you there?”

“Is that Caddy white?” he asked slowly. “And does it have a small Swiss flag in the back window?”

I gulped. “You got it. Do you know this car?”

He sighed. “I sure do. Look, don’t walk away from that job; run!”

“Too late,” I said. “We’ve already got it apart.”

“Well, here’s the story on it,” he said. “I bought that car for a hundred bucks because it ran poorly. It had some bad injectors, but when I removed them, I found the loose injector pump, and the piece of hockey stick.”

“So what did you do?”

“I left the pump alone, replaced the injectors and sold it as is for $1000. The funny part was, it ran great!”

I whistled. So somebody had driven it for a year and then sold it to Markus for even more money.

Unable to find parts, Basil and I went to work with a die-grinder and fabricated a means of bolting the pump securely to the mounting plate. A few days, and a bottle of sedatives later, we managed to convince Tooner to finish the head gasket replacement. In the end, the Seville ran like a dream.

After work I found Tooner packing up a box full of tools. “How come you’re taking your socket set home?” I asked.

“Got to finish the bathroom this weekend,” he muttered. “I’m gonna find a way to bolt on that drywall if it kills me. Hand me that torque wrench.”

I felt sorry for him. My wife didn’t have any home renovation projects planned for me, at least, not as far as I knew. But I think I’ll knock on wood, just to be safe.

(Thanks to John Cornett-Ching of Summerland Auto Tech in Summerland, BC, for this month’s technical solution)

About The Writer

Rick Cogbill is a freelance writer living in the Okanagan valley of Southern British Columbia. A licensed technician with over 25 years in the automotive repair industry, including ten years as a shop owner, Cogbill creates his comic scenarios with Slim, Basil, Tooner, and The Bean out of actual case histories. “What you have just read is true,” drawls Slim Shambles. “Only the names have been changed to protect my hide!”

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