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Now here’s a story

January 6, 2011

Serpentine belt routing diagram

Image by MukYJ via Flickr

Names changed to protect innocent

Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. phone rings. Rick calls to tell me his alternator caught on fire on the way to work. He put it out with a can of pop. He is stranded in Fort Wayne, which is about 40 miles from Bippus.  I agree to help him out getting his vehicle squared away after work.

3 p.m. I am in parking lot with a replacement alternator and serpentine belt and a tool box. We remove old broken serpentine belt, which is wrapped around and around and around and wedged onto the A/C unit pulley. We remove the old scorched alternator and try to unplug the electrical connector which is covered in black, crusty burnt debris.  The wire separates from the alternator and a large chunk of sooty stuff falls away.  The wires are connected to an inch-long metal flat, but there is no clue what the original connector actually looks like.  Sooty, scorched black remains litter the engine compartment.

4:00  We head off to NAPA auto parts store.  This is the main distribution center for the whole Fort Wayne area.  They cannot provide an electrical connector for the replacement alternator that I purchased at the Auto-Zone store in Huntington.  So we buy another alternator, with the correct connector.  We also buy a radiator hose and a jug of anti-freeze.

5:00 It has started to get cold as the sun prepares to set. The replacement alternator is difficult to get into position.  The mounting holes do not allow for the support bracket to attach.  We remove the support bracket.  The radiator hose grudgingly came off, creating a bright green puddle under the old Blazer.  The new hose fits like a charm.  The alternator connector is a 4 wire device.  After cutting back beyond the charred remains of the wire harness, we find TWO wires.  One brown, one brown with a pink tracer.  The connector pigtail has one red, one yellow one brown and one pink with a brown tracer.  Rick has a manual for his 1994 Chevy Tahoe LT Blazer.  It is on his bookshelf at home.  We connect the brown wires and tape them and connect the brown with pink to the pink with brown wires together.  We do not have anything in the toolbox to maneuver the belt tensioner and thus install the serpentine belt.

6:00  Back to NAPA.  The helpful man behind the desk takes the box with the old, charred and crusty alternator and asks “Is this really an alternator?”  but accepts it, and uses some of the refund money to cover the cost of a belt tensioner tool.

6:30  We drive through McDonald’s for some McDoubles and Coffee.  McDoubles are what the folks at McDonalds offer as their version of a double cheeseburger that costs one dollar.  The “real” double cheeseburger has TWO slices of cheese, not one, and costs 59 cents more.  One dollar per McDouble is a good value.  The coffee is hot.

6:45  With one flashlight Rick and I struggle to maneuver the serpentine belt around the 6 pulleys and tensioner because the install diagram on the cowl is tiny and well hidden in the shadows created by the parking lot lights.  We work together like a finely trained team of trunk monkeys and (finally) get the belt installed.  He indicates to me that there is some uncertainty about our wiring choices.  There is some hesitance, perhaps defiant reluctance in him wanting to turn the key.  But it is cold.  Our fingers are chilled to the bone.

7:00  VARRRR-Roooommm!  The old Chevy revvs back to life.  The gages look good.  The engine coolant stays inside the hoses.   The lights come on.  We are done.  All done except for the long ride back to Bippus.

And they all lived happily ever after.

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