my damn truck, and the rest of my day

dead in the water. my truck made it here just fine last night after work. i know, because i parked it in the driveway like i always do. when i attempted to leave for work this morning, i pushed in the clutch and it went to the floor with very little resistance- it just felt kinda strange, and i thought, "oh no...." it's prob'ly just coincidence but it seems like it could be synchronicity or something: i've been thinking about the clutch going out on the thing, even though it hasn't had any trouble to speak of. sure, it made a little slipping noise sometimes when it was in gear, but it's an old truck ('92 Dakota). it always runs fine....but not today. that to-the-floor thing is a classic sign of clutch cable failure.

bracing myself for the worst, i depressed the clutch pedal again; well, i tried to. my knee almost ended up in my chest- it wouldn't budge. it's kinda like that feeling you get when you think you're at the top of the stairs, but you're not yet, and the floor's just WAY too high when you put your foot down. didn't move at all, not a smidgen, not an iota. not a nanometer. dead solid stuck. hmmm. ok. can i change gears? yup. transmission's ok. gear shift lever works fine. is it going to start in gear when i turn it on? hmmm...turn key (cringing against likely grinding noises).....no noises, truck starts right up (this truck's good like that....good truck [pat, pat] nice truck). rev the motor- still normal. let's see....change gears while motor's running, without pushing in the clutch? yup- no scrape, no grind, just changing gears smooth as silk. @#($*@#!($&*!~*!!! (that's what you call "some colorful language".)

ok, i see the symptoms. what's the diagnosis? perhaps something in the clutch actuator assembly? is the pedal binding? doubtful- not when i can change gears with the motor running- the clutch has to be stuck disengaged (which, if you're familiar with automotive mechanics i don't need to tell you, is only supposed to happen when the clutch pedal is depressed....by which i mean physically pushed toward the floor, not emotionally downtrodden). could the clutch cable be stuck somehow? also doubtful. when they break, your pedal goes to the floor with no resistance whatsoever....let's see....pop the hood, take a look. interesting: didn't know it until now, but this truck has a hydraulic clutch actuator, a new animal for this blogger. wire-driven actuators pull mechanically on the clutch assembly to disengage it; this one pushes, the opposite motion to get the same result- which means the entire clutch assembly is different....

so let's see....2 hydraulic cylinders (each a tube with piston inside, which drives, or is driven by, non-compressable hydraulic oil). a fluid reservoir w/DOT 3 brake fluid for the hydraulic oil (which was mildly surprising to me- though it shouldn't have been, considering the brake system is a quite similar hydraulic system), connected to the master (drive) cylinder. a hydraulic fluid line connecting the master and slave cylinders, with the slave cylinder bolted to the outside of the bell housing of the clutch assembly (way down under the belly of the beast, where people seldom go).

so how does this actually work....? a good explanation of clutches can be found here, but the short answer is: pushing in the clutch pedal shoves the master cylinder's piston forward, forcing hydraulic oil through the fluid line, which drives the the piston in the slave cylinder forward. the slave cylinder's piston has a rod on the end which pushes against a spring-mounted pin that causes the clutch to disengage, or in other words: separate the components of the clutch assembly so that the motor's (spinning, while running) driveshaft is no longer in contact with the transmission's pressure plate. as you let the clutch pedal out, the outside force exerted on the system (via your foot) decreases, the master cylinder's piston can retract, the hydraulic fluid moves in the opposite direction (toward a state of equilibrium, or at least insufficient positive pressure to actuate the clutch assembly), the slave cylinder's piston retracts, and with it the pin forcing the clutch assembly to disengage, allowing the clutch to come into contact with the flywheel. the driveshaft (again, always spinning while the motor's running) and the transmission (possibly spinning or not- and likely at a different rate, in any case) rub against each other until the resistance caused by their friction synchronizes the rate of spin between the two (meeting somewhere between the two rates of spin), and they become "fully engaged", not slipping on each other anymore. once that state is achieved, the torque (spinning force) of the driveshaft is thereafter fully transferred (through that engaged clutch assembly) to the selected gear of the transmission, which in turn transfers that torque to the driveline, which transfers it to another set of gears called a differential, to the drive wheels.

2 drive wheels, in my case. which aren't moving, even when the transmission is in gear. so either there's something wrong with the clutch itself, or the pedal/hydraulic system you control it with. so which is it? first thing to check is the hydraulic fluid. checks out ok- maybe a little low, so i add a little....shouldn't be the cause of the problem, in any event. maybe the cylinder(s) is/are stuck? could be. disconnect one end and try to move the piston.. hmmm. which end? decide on the slave cylinder, with only two bolts and not a lot of crap in the way. get nut driver from tool box in garage- think twice, grab them all, which keeps me from having to walk back in through the house to the garage if i have the wrong one. since the garage door is effectively blocked by 2 large sheets of plywood which wouldn't fit in any other way- for the moment- and....oh, forget it- on with the mechanical thing. go back outside, crawl under the truck. try the 1/2" nut driver- correct size, first try. yes! got an eye for these things. too bad the piston makes it impossible to grip the handle to turn the driver. hmmm. need a socket. go back inside anyway, through the house to the garage, find a 1/2" socket, go back out, crawl under truck....realize parking brake doesn't work and this is on a slope....think twice. remember car falling on me when i was 17- lucky, wasn't injured. remember aquaintance from high school pinned under car unto death.....sigh. crawl back out, get great big rock from overgrown jungle of garden in front yard, wedge behind front wheel, just in case. rock rolls. rock too round. toss rock back in jungle and choose another, more carefully. wedge rock behind front tire. rock vehicle back-n-forth a bit, check for movement- none. ok. satisfied. crawl back under truck with socket and wrench, put socket on bolt- no. socket too short. damn. crawl back out from under truck, go through house to garage, look for deeper socket. no. not exist. [sigh]. find open end/box end wrench....very short wrench....shake head at sorry state of tool box. remind self to invest in some damn tools for the umpteenth time. get cheater bar, just in case. go back outside, crawl under truck, put wrench on bolt, turn. no. stuck. push really hard, crack knuckles on steel....expected- not upset. rub hurt hand. try again, rack knuckles again, not so hard- try cheater bar. put wrench on bolt, cheater bar on wrench; drop cheater bar, put cheater bar on wrench, drop both, pick up wrench, put on bolt, hold wrench carefully, put cheater bar on wrench, crank carefully about 1/8 of a turn....it moves! progress. set aside cheater bar, turn bolt with wrench, then fingers. repeat successful procedure for 2nd bolt. remove slave cylinder. push in pin. works fine, including transferring force to the master cylinder. check for leaks, see none. maybe master cylinder siezed? doubtful- motion present....leave slave cylinder hanging, crawl out from under truck, try to twist free master cylinder- it rotates out of firewall. excellent. easier to disconnect cylinder from pedal, or from hydraulic line? check pedal assembly....looks kinda hard to get at. go back to engine compartment, check out cotter pin...push pin type. hmmm. scratch head. get idea! go through house into garage, get sheet metal scribe and hammer. insert sharp end of sheet metal scribe into pin hole, tap with hammer- pin moves. go into house get vice grips. try to pull out pin....not enough sticking out. scratch head. idea! go through house into garage, get old wire coat hanger, break short piece off with needlenose pliers, bring pliers and wire outside. hold wire with pliers, tap with hammer, pin moves. try again with vice grips. not enough sticking out, angle is bad. return to wire, drop wire , search for wire, no find. growlz. go back into house with pliers, break off longer section of wire, return to truck. grip wire with pliers, insert in hole, tap with hammer, drop wire. search for wire. no find. GROWLZ. force cylinder into better position, carefully adjust vice-grips, pull pin- yes! got it. remove fitting from end of cylinder. push cylinder toward firewall to simulate pedal pressure. spew hydraulic oil over air filter cover and engine. swear- the stuff's caustic and eats paint. go inside, get rag. carefully remove fluid line and slave cylinder- spill more fluid, including on outside of fender, tire, and wheel rim. use rag to clean up as much as possible. wonder if the paint on the truck is going to corrode. think that losing some paint on this truck is about as damaging as pissing in a garbage dump. wipe off fluid anyway. crawl into cab, head under dash, check out master cylinder attachment to pedal....not difficult. go inside, get small flathead screwdriver from junk drawer in kitchen, go back out, pull retaining washer, exit cab, move piston in master cylinder freely- spew more oil, this time mostly on the driveway. cylinder is definitely not bound. nothing in hydraulic system or pedal assembly seems unable to move freely. worry. problem likely more serious.

scratch head. smoke cigarette. call mechanically-inclined friend to confirm what i suspect: clutch assembly is frozen disengaged. friend agrees with my assessment. only options: 1) jar loose the assembly, 2) remove transmission and fix properly. think. think of lack of decent tools. think of lack of jack stands to support transmission when disconnected from engine. think of slope truck is sitting on and lack of parking brake. think of lack of proximal area to work on vehicle. think of work already missed and possibility of missing more. think of cost of getting vehicle fixed. think of cost of towing truck to shop for repair. ponder relative benefits and drawbacks of rock and hard place.

Loren here for weekend, out from school sick (very sick) all week, likely needs help (read: cattle prod) to complete missed school work. Super Bowl XL is Sunday- Seahawks' first trip, will not miss that. weekend fairly busy. work looming Monday. figure it may be possible to repair at home, but combination of uncertainty of length of time to (and success of) repair and tight schedule this weekend.....tough. call shop that replaced freeze plugs and shocks, get estimate of cost and turnaround; call insurance, ask about towing coverage- it exists. wonder if negative effect on insurance rates outweighs cost of towing....figure i can decide to turn in the claim later....all in all: $250 labor + parts + $75 towing....likely $400-500 bill altogether. ouch. OUCH, DAMMIT! bite the bullet. make it so. need my truck.

so this weekend, though stuck around the house for the most part, will be a decent one, but it's going to cost me about a week's wages, or ~2% of my income for the year. sigh.

could be worse, the truck coulda rolled on me. or i could be my neighbor, who fell at work and is now faced with being out of work for weeks, in significant pain, dealing with the rock of trying to work hurt (like i did with my broken foot) or the hard place of waiting 6 weeks for any kind of flow in the form of lost wage replacement (like when i broke my thumb and wasn't allowed to work). decide i like my situation marginally better- no pain involved. i don't like pain. it hurts.

surprise (not), my boss wasn't noticeably upset. i figure that wasn't wholely unexpected, he's a guy who's had a few things break down on him before. he told me i wouldn't have had this trouble if i'd bought a Ford. should've told him i would've only had faulty tires or a bad ignition switch or something like my sister did on her Explorer. must be getting slow in my old age. it's a 13 year old truck with 170K miles on it; i've put 135K miles on it myself in the last 10 years (one of which it sat in the driveway with blown freeze plugs).

so maybe the bus? or possibly catch a ride with co-worker on Monday. i'll figure it out tomorrow. tonight, it's late, so i'm headin' down the home stretch here.

Loren's mom brought him this evening, and stopped at the store for me on the way here. hated asking for the favor, but i guess swallowing pride was easier than a walking 2.5 miles. wish i would've been thinking more clearly this afternoon when i walked right past the grocery store to the 7-11 for smokes, which i've been out of since last night. i'm planning on quitting on Monday morning, and it seemed a shame not to have any NOW. think i'll light another one, now that i think of it....damn i'm really gonna miss this....more often than not i truly ENJOY smoking, and if i wasn't already showing "mild signs of early stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease" i prob'ly wouldn't be quitting at all; at least not yet.

but once again, i digress. Loren came, and showed me a fantastic drawing he did (his mom gets to keep this one, wish i had my scanner workin'...) and we ate pizza and watched some Star Trek: The Next Generation (season 1 disc 7, which we somehow skipped), and generally caught up with each other- our usual Friday. he had a boatload of energy, and is obviously feeling much better today. happy. next week promises to be some long days for me; if i work an extra 8 hours before Wednesday i'll be back on schedule with the missed work, and that'll take about a third of the sting out of the truck repair bill- plenty of motivation. hope there's enough work to support it.

time to go or i'll sleep all day tomorrow and waste my Loren time. PEACE

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