Sunday, August 25, 2013

Day 1 of our 4-day break

So frigging frustrated right now.  This will be a rather lengthy post so be prepared.  There will be a lot of capitalizations to hopefully express just the extent of said frustration.

Mike made a RESERVATION with U-Haul online.  There, they request the make and model of the vehicle you're using to tow said trailer.  They also request the details of the car that is being put on the trailer.  So of course he did exactly that:  2002 Ford F-150, extended cab 8-cylinder gas engine, 8,000lb towing capacity.  Then he needed to advise what the truck, with the trailer attached, would be hauling which is a 2007 5-cylinder, 2-door Volkswagen Rabbit.  With all of these details,  U-haul approved the reservation and said we'd see an email with pick up location in 2-3 business days.

On Friday, everything was in order to retrieve the trailer on Sunday.  Okay!  All the details are settled... Sweet.  In just about 48-hours we'd be in transit to Alton, VA!

Saturday after work, we knew what needed to be accomplished so that when we woke up we would be mostly ready to go!  The truck needed an oil change and we needed to load all of the crap that was making the trip with us: full set of wheels and brakes for the Rabbit (because racecar), camping gear, helmets per track protocol, camping chairs and a canopy to put over the makeshift "residence" for our weekend.

Around 9pm we were done!  Exhausted from being up for the last 19 hours, we went to bed.  The only details remaining were packing a weekend bag, gathering medications, packing the cooler, and of course sleep!

Mike woke me up around 9am.  I was still pretty groggy so I sorta took my time, eating breakfast, catching up on some DVR shows and packing the backpack.

By about 10 we were on the road and around 11 we were at the U-haul location.  This is where the frustration/aggravation/whatever-other-synonym-you-would-like-to-use began.

While Mike was doing whatever it is you do when renting the trailer, I fueled up.  After that I sat waiting for about 20 minutes, so I decided to go in and see what was going on.  When I went in, Mike explained to me that the worker pulled up the reservation and said that the trailer we RESERVED would not worked with the vehicles we had.  The guy was more than helpful and even tried putting in an older Rabbit (which were considerably lighter) with an F-250 or F-350 and that still didn't work.  Eventually, he made the car being transported a Geo Metro being towed by our truck and it finally worked.  So around noon we were ready to load the car.

So the trouble with the Rabbit is that because it is lowered, it is a little more difficult to make it go up ramps.  The one helpful thing (at least at that time) we forgot was some wood to put under the wheels.  So over to the hardware store we went. 

With wood, car, and truck in place we could finally get this loaded up.  The first tito me the Rabbit made it on the trailer, we discovered that the trailer didn't attach to the hitch properly so the front of it went da couple of feet off the ground.  So back off the trailer it went.  When that was all figured out, we literally ran into another issue: the lip the front wheels had to get over.  So back to the hardware store to get more wood to put in front of the tires.  At this point I didn't know whether to laugh or cry so I did both.  My hunger also didn't help with the confused emotions.  But finally the car was on the trailer and secured.  This was around 1. 

Finally on the road we started our way out 50 to 95 south.  After a couple of hours, we stopped to top up the truck, get ice for the cooler and use the restrooms.  So while Mike was filling up, he noticed that the brake connector from the truck to the trailer were no longer connected.  As he tried to put them back together he saw that apparently there was too much slack so it had been dragging on the ground and got damaged.  That meant we needed to find a auto parts store. 

In Dale City, he put on a new 4-pin connector.  When he finished that, we were then able to get back on the road. Finally, things were good.  Except my cell phone was not charging so I wound up having to hold the USB in place for the last 2 hours of the trip.  So basically, I've been righting this blog post intermintently over the last 6 hours.

Finally we got to VIR around 9pm.  We started with pulling the car off of the trailer which actually resulted in damage to the front splitter.  But the car was unloaded so I suppose that counts for something.  Next was getting our accommodations set up.

Thakfully, it's not raining like it was the last time we camped so while it was dark, we got the tent up pretty quickly.  Once that was all done I went about getting the mattress blown up.  Well to add to the frustration, the batteries were on their last leg.  So right now we're laying on the ground with a little bit of padding beneath us since the batteries gave up before it was fully done.

So  that pretty much sums up our day.  I really hope tomorrow will be better.  Right now, I need to get to sleep.  I'm so exhausted.  Good night!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My affinity for car work

Two different people have asked me fairly recently how I learned how to perform car maintenance and repairs.  One of those two people who asked was my father, so that tells you it wasn't him I learned from.  My step-dad was handy with tools, but mostly for wood-working (he used to make wooden toys to sell at craft fairs when I was a kid).  I had access to tools, but no one to show me what I was doing, so I was on my own.

First, a bit of background.  From early on, I liked to tinker and take things apart.  I used to take apart GI Joes and swap body parts just for grins.  In fact, I took apart many of my toys.  In Middle School, I decided to take apart the computer I had at the time and built my own in high school, so obviously I was always fascinated with how things work and taking them apart.

I started small.  I picked up a Haynes Manual for my 86 Cutlass Supreme Coupe and started with the simple stuff.  Oil changes, and changing the fuel filter.  That is about all the repair I did on that car.  Then I was off in College and got my truck, but that meant I didn't really have anywhere to do car work, except occasionally over Matt's house. I stepped up to doing brake pads next, differential fluid and spark plugs.  At this point, it was a combination of Haynes manuals and the internet, but still heavier on the former.  It wasn't until we lived in Germany and I had regular access to a lift that I started to get more serious and was seriously bitten by the mod bug on the Jetta and the 325i.  Now I was at the point where I relied mostly on write-ups I found on the internet.  I even dove into adding OEM parts that were only available in Europe which required some wiring to the computer and reprogramming.

Waiting for the start

There are still some things that I take it into the shop for because I lack the tools or confidence to do it, but as of last year I am to the point where I am comfortable swapping out brake calipers, bleeding the brakes, and just this week, I changed one of my axles myself.  No lift at home, but 4 jack stands and a much smaller version of me makes it a lot easier now too.  Still not comfortable enough to do a timing belt job on the TDIs though, so I have a ways to go before I am self-sufficient car repairs wise, but I do save a fair amount of money both doing my own maintenance and doing my own pre-track inspections.

rotors need to be resurfaced because racecar

So, I guess that basically covers it.  If you have any other car related questions, feel free to ask.

Part of what spawned this was on Saturday during Dub Deliverance, after my first session, I immediately jacked up the car and started looking in the front-left wheel area.  I knew SOMETHING was off, just wasn't sure what at first.  Turned out to be a failed CV boot.  My friend who was with me said he didn't think there would ever be anything he would experience in a car that would make him immediately jack up the car and look at the front drive-train.  Of course, much more is at stake on the track then on the street in terms of speeds and forces on the car, so hence my desire to immediately investigate after the session.