Monday, October 26, 2009


A while back Kathy noticed a noise coming from the front of the Dakota. It was out of my hearing range so I wasn’t aware of it. I had Paul Wright listen to it and he thought it was the take-up pulley on the serpentine belt. Finally it got loud enough that I could hear it but I couldn’t tell exactly from where it was coming although it sounded like it was lower than the pulley. After driving it a bit more I decided I would take it down to Kendall’s to let them diagnose it before ordering a pulley I might not need. No sooner had I stopped at Kendall’s than the question was settled as evidenced by the puddle of coolant on the asphalt. I’ve changed water pumps before and it’s no fun so I scheduled an appointment for them to do it in a couple of days.

After thinking about it for a day I thought, “You know, I’d better see just how much that’s going to cost”. So I went back down to get a firm estimate and to my amazement it was about $500. That included a new serpentine belt because I figured it was about time for a new one before that one stranded me some place. I called Hanson’s Garage in Orofino and got a more reasonable estimate but by this time it was leaking so badly that I knew I’d never make it to Orofino. So … that left Mickey the Mechanic.

I got the parts from Napa which were considerable less expensive than Mopar stuff. Unless you have an electric fan, they are attached to the water pump. The first problem I encountered was that the Dakota has a clutch fan that is designed to freewheel at higher speeds. It’s attached to the water pump pulley with a big nut. Although the pump instructions mentioned that some vehicles might have a clutch fan it didn’t address that situation and the shaft appeared to be flush with the end of the pulley with nothing to screw the nut onto. I called the Lewiston Napa store where I had purchased the parts and told the counterman my problem. He told me there was another pump for that application and he didn’t have one but the Clarkston store did. So I took the pump down to the Clarkston store to exchange it only to find out that it really was the right pump but you had to remove a rubber cover to expose the threads. Of course the instructions failed to mention this.

The next problem was getting the 1 ¼ inch nut loose. Since the serpentine belt system was the only resistance, the only way I could get the nut loose was to cause impact by striking it with a big hammer. As you can see by the picture I followed the shade tree mechanic’s creed: “Problem? Get a bigger hammer”. And, by the way, the Napa clerk told me that the pump had left hand threads. After more than a few unsuccessful strikes I checked the new pump and found that they were not left hand threads. So I had been tightening it all along. At any rate, I eventually got the nut loose and the fan removed.

The water pump has seven bolts. Six of them are no problem. The problem bolt is situated so that a socket will not fit straight on it. As I did not have the required 14 mm box end wrench, I called it a day and went over to Schucks’s the next day to get a wrench. By removing an idler pulley and another bolt that was in the way I was able to get the last nut out with my new wrench.

The next monumental problem was replacing a small manifold bypass hose that the Service Manager at Hanson’s had recommended that I replace while replacing the pump. In order to replace this little six inch long hose you have to remove a large platform bracket attached to the front of the engine on which the alternator and air conditioner compressor are mounted. After getting the platform bracket loose I found I couldn’t move it very far because of all the electrical and refrigerant hoses attached. Finally I was able to move it just far enough to get to the top hose clamp by rigging up a crowbar to hold it in place so as to free my hands to get the clamp off. Of course, after removing the clamp the hose was heat glued to the mount so I had to work a knife in the small space to cut the hose loose.

Before replacing the new pump you must remove the gasket remains on the front of the engine. I had a good scraper but the material was attached so well I had to make another trip to Napa to get a can of gasket remover. It seemed like I worked about an hour getting the gasket surface clean – not counting the trip to town.

Remarkably, things went pretty well reassembling things except for one maddening circumstance – I had one bolt left over. When I took things apart I had marked all the bolts except for this one which I had set on top of the pulley I had to remove in order to get the seventh bolt out of the water pump. This was ruining my whole day. It was time to quit anyway so there was nothing else to do. Finally, just before bedtime I remembered that one bolt I had had to remove along with the pulley to get the seventh water pump bolt out. I went right out in my pajamas, removed and replaced the pulley again after replacing the bolt.

I finished getting things back together the next morning and so far so good. If you think this sounds like a lot of grief and pain, you’re right. Of course, I’m used to that (The Warnock slogan is “Nothing is ever easy”) and I do have about $350 more in my pocket. I didn’t forget to hit the Easy Button when I finished either.


chris miller said...

Dan says you can also sell all the parts you have left over to help defray the cost of the pump. He says that's what he does. ;-) He also says it's a great time to exercise some of the less frequently used words in your vocabulary!

Kathy said...

Thanks for the comment and the tip on defraying costs. I would have named this post "One Bolt Leftover." I should have gotten a picture of him in his pajamas.

Well, one of those money-saving tips is to learn to do your own repairs, and that's something we practice to the best of our ability. Sometimes I wonder if it's worth it, but this actually went fairly well, I thought.

Hallie said...

I think I would have titled it, "One Tough Nut" or "A Few Loose Nuts" or "Dad's a Little Nutty". ;)

Dad: How many hours went into that and how much do you charge for labor?

Kathy said...

But that's the point: the labor cost him nothing. In retirement, you find yourself with uncommitted time, and you need projects and activities for the sense of accomplishment. And you know -- it's use it or lose it. I figure it took him twice as long as the shop, but he did save the money, he got the job done, and he feels good about it.

He wanted to do it, or he wouldn't have. XO

Hallie said...

So if I need some work done, will his labor cost ME nothing? That's the question. :)

I wouldn't curse him with a project on a VW, though...they're impossible!

murray.warnock said...

Congratulations on the successful repair, Dad! Sounds like you were able to work your way out of each roadblock - must be gratifying.