Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bertha's Better

We had been running Bertha, our '97 Nissan Pathfinder that had gotten a tankful of bad gas , trying to burn off the gunk, but it was still taking several minutes of cranking to get her to start. I had learned what to do to make her stall in traffic and, more importantly, how to recover before she completely stalled out. As our friend Brian - who apparently reads the blog from Oregon - commented, we would have to replace the fuel filter because it was undoubtedly fouled with whatever bad was in the gas.

We had heard something similar from a guy here who commented that filters have a tendency to foul more quickly on the island anyway. So we made up our minds to do it. After doing a little research on Nissan Web sites I decided not only could I do this, but it would actually be pretty easy. Maybe the easiest thing you can do on the car. We don't have a mechanic here yet, and finding a good one you can trust is hard under the best of circumstances. So we were game to DIY it, even though virtually all my tools are still in storage 4,000 miles away in Oregon. I have here one small crescent wrench, a couple of pairs of pliers and four screw drivers. But based on my research that ought to do it.

It's a typical St. Croix story. This (Saturday) morning Tori and I walked four blocks or so to the auto parts store, got the filter for 15 bucks, went across the street to the hardware store where we got a couple of clamps for the fuel line. I was thinking, "I really should have a socket wrench for that bracket, cuz the bolt is probably frozen." But I already have two socket sets – in Oregon. It was hard to decide to spend the money, so we decided to forgo the new wrench. We walked home and got to work.

First - disconnect the battery. Always a good idea when you're working on the fuel system. Then clamp off on the tank-side hose and remove the hose. No trouble. On to the bracket that holds the filter in place.

And that bolt was stuck. I mean stuck solid. WD40. Still stuck. It's been in place for 11 years and wasn't going to loosen without putting up a fight. Part of the problem was the bracket frame had a small lip on it so I couldn't get wrench or pliers or anything on it squarely. Finally I said to Tori, "Gotta have the right tool. I'm going back for the socket wrench." She just said fine, but didn't get out from under the car where she continued tinkering with that frozen bolt. (Frozen Bolt would be a good name for a rock band, wouldn't it?)

I walked to the hardware store. Now this is the most typically St. Croix part of the story. The hardware store only had half-inch drive socket wrenches, but only had 3/8-inch drive sockets. So I also had to buy an adapter - which thank God they had! I knew from my research that the bolt was 10 mm, but I also bought the 9 and 11 mm sockets "just in case." I was tired of walking to the hardware store.

Thus armed, I walked back home. Where Tori was sitting on the porch. "It's done," she said. Two minutes after I'd turned the corner she had worked the bolt loose enough to undo the clamp. The rest of the job was absurdly simple, and she'd finished it up before I got back. I did use my new socket wrench to tighten the bracket – the 10 mm socket was right. I was able to get almost two more full turns on the bolt, so it wasn't a complete waste. That filter won't be coming loose until the day of judgment.

The first time I started Bertha up it still took five minutes of cranking. "The line is empty, drained of fuel. It's supposed to take a few minutes," I told myself with more hope than certainty. Bertha finally roared to life and I drove to the gas station, the good one, the uphill one, where I paid a lot more for the gasoline but it's worth it to just get gas, not gas and something else. I had to turn off the engine to fill it of course.

Now here's where the rubber meets the road. I got back in the car and turned the key.

And Bertha fired right up! Huzzah! We did it! It's certainly no worse (always a concern when I crawl under a car with tools) and it appears to be fixed.

So we seem to have a functional car again. And a good thing to since we haven't even started our Christmas shopping. That'll be the subject for a post in the next few days.


Pat Kight said...

Well, of COURSE Tori got it working. You've gotta have faith, man: Mad Sally can fix anything!

Cap'n said...

Well played! Well done both of you!

Mimi Foxmorton said...

And, of course you know that now you're going to get at least a half dozen socket wrenches as Christmas presents.......

A blessed Yuletide to your very special pirate crew!

Fair Winds and a followin' sea....