Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Wednesday, August 2, 2006


    Tom vs. the Alternator

    We own a 1995 Oldsmobile Achieva. Recently, the alternator went bad. Since I've replaced an alternator before, I elected to replace this one myself and save labor costs.

    For those that don't know, this is the typical procedure for replacing an alternator, which sits right on top of the engine:

    1) Disconnect battery cable.
    2) Get a big wrench and torque the tension pulley, creating slack in the serpentine belt, and remove same from around alternator pulley.
    3) Remove 2 bolts holding the alternator to the engine.
    4) Disconnect wires from alternator.
    5) Connect wires to new alternator.
    6) Bolt into place.
    7) Replace belt.
    8) Reconnect battery cable.

    Simple, huh?

    Now, here is the sequence of events for doing the same thing to a GM vehicle with a 3.1 Liter V6 engine:

    Day 1:
    1) Disconnect battery cable.
    2) Search for tension pulley.
    3) Consult Chilton's manual.
    4) Search again for tension pulley.
    5) Get a flashlight.
    6) Nope, not there...
    7) OK, that must be it. But how do you reach it?
    8) Look inside wheel well for removable access panel.
    9) Consult Chilton's manual again.
    10) Decide the Chilton's people have never actually worked on a GM vehicle with a 3.1 Liter V6 engine
    11) Pack everything up 'cuz it's getting dark, resolve to ask guys at auto parts store.
    12) Log in to Chilton's website in hopes of finding updated documentation.
    13) Find updated documentation. Pay $19.95 to get it, even though it should be free for owners of the printed manual. Note the requirement of a special tool.
    14) Search Auto Zone's website for tool.
    15) Re-word search.
    16) Re-re-word search.
    17) Re-re-re-word search.
    18) Browse through categories looking for anything having to do with serpentine belts.
    19) Find "belt tool". Note part number.

    Day 2:
    20) Go to Auto Zone on lunch break, buy tool, which is essentially a long flat bar with a doohickey for socket drivers on the end.
    21) After work, attach 13mm driver to tool, attempt to fanagle it into place.
    22) Attempt #2.
    23) Attempt #3. Why the %$#@ does GM make these cars so hard to work on?
    24) Curse GM's engineers.
    25) Get tool into place. Attempt to torque tension pulley.
    26) Realize that tool is merely turning the bolt that pulley is attached with.
    27) Wonder how to get the pulley to move without the bolt moving.
    28) Flashlight.
    29) Curse bad viewing angle, but get vague impression of a squarish hole in tension arm. Hypothesize that socket attachment block on tool actually fits into that hole.
    30) Remove socket from tool, test hypothesis.
    31) Success! Belt removed from alternator. Mentally note that pulley turns opposite direction from Chilton's documented procedure. Wonder again if they've ever actually worked on a GM vehicle with a 3.1 Liter V6 engine.
    32) Disconnect first bolt from alternator.
    33) Wonder how in the heck to access second bolt.
    34) Curse GM's engineers.
    35) After much contortion, remove second bolt.
    36) Attempt to lift alternator from engine. Wonder why it's so difficult.
    37) Note existence of 3rd bolt. What the hell?
    38) Note that 3rd bolt holds a plastic bracket keeping all the nearby cables and hoses in line.
    39) Attempt to remove 3rd bolt. Vainly go through entire collection of sockets looking for one that fits.
    40) Curse GM's engineers.
    41) Decide that plastic bracket is a fancy way of doing the work some zip ties could do just as well. Grab wire snips, chew bracket in half.
    42) Remove alternator.
    43) Disconnect wires.
    44) Discover for completeness' sake that socket required would have been a deep 10mm. Note absence of same in toolbox.
    45) Connect wires to new alternator.
    46) Re-attach bolts, including 3rd bolt which is now basically superfluous.
    47) Torque tension pulley, place belt over alternator pulley.
    48) Clear off tools, have wife start car.
    49) Remember that bolts are not tight yet, live dangerously and tighten them with engine running.
    50) Curse GM's engineers.

    Posted by Tom, 8/2/2006 7:04:53 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...