Sunday, July 13, 2014

"My Car Broke Down in Arizona / Had to Ride the Bus Again"*

I guess I didn't get around to writing the next day, but in the time since I last posted, the cooling system has been performing admirably, given its age and design. Gone are the days of the rumbling, boiling coolant, it seems. The needle on the temperature gauge is significantly farther down than before, in a wide range of (hot) driving conditions. Using cruise control on the freeway seems to help matters as well.

But the adventures continue, of course. A couple weeks ago, I was driving down the U.S. 60 toward the interchange with the 101, when the Eagle's engine abruptly lost power and stopped responding to throttle inputs. The power steering and brakes still worked, though, so it was clear the engine was still running. I brought the car into the shade on a shoulder under an overpass, and contemplated being stranded even briefly in the heat, and the cost of a tow. As I did so, the engine stalled completely. I sat there for a few seconds, then turned the key, and the engine started up right away and was fine-ish after that, and I got home without incident.

That experience, coupled with some other previously-observed symptoms, led me to believe that not enough gas was getting to the carburetor, in a way consistent with a clogged fuel filter. I had never changed it, so that made plenty of sense.

After putting on a new filter, though, the problems worsened, in the other direction. So much gas was being poured down the intake's gullet that the engine bogged and bucked, and acrid smoke poured out of the exhaust pipe - though, notably, it didn't stall. But even by 1985 standards, this was unacceptable. After fiddling and futzing with the carburetor, and seeing less improvement than I wanted, I decided to pull the carb and put it through the complete adjustment regimen as prescribed by the factory service manual.

Friday night I took it off and partially apart, and did the adjustments (some had been way off... my bad) and then put it back on. There was immediate improvement but now I have to fine-tune the Fast Idle and Curb Idle screws, but that's not too hard. The best part was that there was yet another fantastic Arizona sunset waiting for me after I finished the job. Phone photos don't nearly do it justice. In a huge, flat valley, the sky goes on forever, and the summer monsoon, even when it's not throwing lightning around, gives you evening scenes like this:

*for the uninitiated: the post title is a Five Iron Frenzy lyric. Yeah, you've probably never heard of them, so...