Saturday the 29th of October, I thought I would wake up and clean up the garage. I also wanted to finish putting away all the items that I’d used for the truck repair and generally get things back to normal. I also bought some special cleaner to clean the Mass Air Flow sensor in the truck. I read that these need periodic cleaning and that if they aren’t the throttle can be sluggish. I never heard of a Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor. As before, I looked it up and found out what it is and how to clean it. I figure I’ll do this while I’m cleaning the garage.

Next thing you know I decide to pull the number 1 cylinder spark plug just to take a look at it. It’s got all types of black soot on it. A definite sign of the air/fuel mixture being too rich. Makes a lot of sense with with those faulty intake manifold gaskets. (That reminds me, as I was cleaning up the garage, I looked at the old gaskets. I’m surprised my truck ran at all with those things. They were in tattered shape and just came apart in pieces when I took them off). The last shop I took the truck to,informed me that the engine is sucking in all sorts of air and I’m sure that was creating a mixture problem with the fuel and the high idle. Well I took off a couple more spark plugs and now I’m committed. Time to change all eight and install some fresh ones.

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned or was reminded of in this whole process, is to not fear trying something new. Something way out of the box in your personal life. Now it is good to research it and get all the info that you can. Once you get all your ducks in a row, Do It. Set your mind to have some fun and enjoy the process. There were many times in this repair, I felt like I had made a big mistake. This was as much a mental exercise as it was the physical act of doing the repair. It was so beyond my normal type of thing in repairing a car that it left me with an empowered feeling once it was complete. That if I set my mind to it, I could do just about anything. I like that. That is what directed me to change the spark plugs. Actually minus the spark plug wires, I did just about an entire full tune-up on the truck and if I can do intake manifold gaskets, what’s spark plugs. Right? That is also what is going to direct me to do some light body work in the future and get rid of the rusty parts and make it look more like new.

This is so far away from a few years ago, when my truck wouldn’t start and I had it towed to a shop, where they did a major tune-up and I’d hoped the high idle would go away then. It didn’t and I remember being so bummed. Another time I got a new water pump installed. Both of these repairs were in the $400.00 range each. I could have saved all types of money and learned some valuable skills and lessons doing them myself. When you know better, you do better. A great quote originally from Maya Angelou and often coined by Oprah Winfrey.

I’m glad to have gone through the experience and even more glad that I could share my experience with you, constant reader. Thanks for keeping up with my story and sending some vibes of encouragement and support. It didn’t go unnoticed.

Always Remember…You don’t have permission to Quit.

Jeffrey Washington

That’s right, I Did It. After just over 3 weeks of my truck being down, it’s all good to go now. It’s starts up better than before and idles around 700 RPM instead of the 1500 RPM it was doing for the last two or three years. Oops did I let the cat out of the bag. I guess I did.

I hate to admit it but this truck has needed this repair since at least 2008. I wanted to get the repair done, but a repair of $800.00 to $1000.00 for something that didn’t prevent me from driving the vehicle just felt painful.

Perhaps you are like me when you go to a repair shop. I tell the technician the symptoms of the problem I’m having with the vehicle. I sign the consent form for the work and hand over the keys. Then the anxiety starts. Since I didn’t really know what was wrong with the car, now I’m worried that they are going to tell me that I need to come off of a few benjamins to get the repair done. That’s stressful. Even though this repair took longer than I wanted and cost a bit more in tools than I planned, not having that anxiety at the shop…priceless.

Let me tell you what happened after I heard that hissing sound coming from the front of the engine on the passenger side. I kept thinking that it sounded a little like a vacuum sound but had a metallic undertone to it. I’ve heard a vacuum sound before and their is nothing metallic or mechanical sounding in that at all. Not only is there this hissing sound, but the idle is real erratic and when I tried to drive it it cut off before I could get out of the driveway. I didn’t want to take a test drive for fear of getting stranded around the corner.

A couple days ago, I pull apart some of the previous work that I did and try to find if there is somewhere that a leak would be. Once I got most of the front passenger side valve cover, wire loom and saw nothing, I knew I was barking up the wrong tree. At the end of the day I sit at my computer and just stare at the screen trying to figure it out. It pops in my head why don’t I Google the exact problem with the car: 96 Chevy Vortec 5.7 with hissing sound coming from front passenger side of engine. As soon as I hit enter, all these sites come up discussing various problems with the belt tensioner. That is the spring loaded pulley in the engine bay that holds the serpentine belt taut and allows the serpentine belt to be removed when it is moved aside, releasing the tension. One site even talked about the suggested lifespan of this tensioner pulley to be 60,000 miles. Duhhhh. I’ve got 140,000 miles on my truck and wouldn’t be surprised at all if this is the original. I would have never thought of that, but it makes a lot of sense when I can hear the metallic tone in that hissing sound. Now I’m on a mission. I’m looking all over the internet trying to find confirmation about this. Oh Crap, it’s time to go to sleep, I have to work the next day. I decide to keep looking the next day and see what I can find. I’m getting excited that this may be a good lead.

The next day I find lots of confirming stories, but I’m not sure how to find out how to tell if my part is in fact busted. On one site, it suggest to rule out any other noise problems, to remove the serpentine belt and start the truck. Well I’ve never done that before, but I can imagine as long as I don’t do it for too long that shouldn’t be a problem. Since the belt is off, the alternator won’t charge the battery and the water pump won’t pump water through the engine or radiator. I decide to just do it for a few minutes but before that, I’ve got to put the previous days partial tear down back together. That takes about an hour and about 10:30pm on Wednesday October 26, when I should be getting ready for bed, I decide to start the truck. Fingers crossed, Vrooooom. Starts right up, no hissing, normal idle, near perfection. Vindication…I think. Now I’m real excited as I think I’ve found the problem. I rush up to the computer and start combing the Internet for this part and the idler pulley as well. I think it would be best to replace them both and not have to worry anymore.

As I’m looking I find that the Autozone about 2 miles from home has both parts in stock. Darn, it’s 11:00pm and all the stores are closed. I’ll have to wait until the next day after work. I’m getting real excited now. Maybe all this work will have a positive end. It’s been such a rollercoaster ride.

I go to sleep thinking about it. I wake up thinking about it. I tell myself that I’ve got to concentrate at work and be patient. That all sounds good, but I can’t wait. I took a couple hours off at the end of the day and head straight for the auto parts store. I get the parts and look at the belt tensioner. The pulley wheel, barely moves after spinning it with my hand. The one on my truck is completely free spinning. Did I tell you I’m getting excited! Maybe it is supposed to offer a bit of resistance and the one I have is doing nothing. I’m outta there like a bat outta hell, headed home.

After changing into my grimy “mechanics” clothes, I head out. As the Blues Brothers said, “I’m on a mission from GOD”. 🙂

Ready, Set, 1,2,wait for it, 3. Everything is installed and I put the key in the ignition and start it up. Purrrrrs like a kitten. I haven’t heard it sound like this since about 2007 or so. That’s too long, but I’m very happy. I drive it to a local dealership and get an oil change. That is one of the steps to changing the intake manifold gaskets, just in case I got some gunk in the engine and oil. It felt so great to drive it there under its own power and have it sound normal. Of course on the way home I get a car wash for the “Duke of Burgundy”. It needed it. I know it sounds corny but that’s my name for the truck, “The Duke of Burgundy.” It came from a William Shakespeare play that I like, The Tragedy of King Lear.

This was a tremendous experience and I am beyond pleased. I’ve enjoyed the entire process and had a great time.

Now on to the next projects: Exterior garage lights, water damage from the roof and a couple handles on the truck. Now that I’ve taken on such a big job there is no way I’m going to be rolling down my window to get out of the truck or using pliers to open the tailgate. I feel energized. Better put that to some use right?

Always Remember…You don’t have permission to Quit.

Jeffrey Washington







First of all I need to apologize for being gone for so long. It was related to the truck so I hope you will understand. Since I last posted about the repair, I installed the manifold gaskets and got everything back together. I had to look at a lot of my pictures and notes but it wasn’t too bad. It even looked better that it looked before I started.

Once I started the truck it was another story. It started up straight away, but I hear a loud hissing vacuum sound coming from the passenger side of the engine near the front. Now the engine doesn’t idle high like it did before and I am quite pleased about that. I am left perplexed about this and am starting to wonder if I have come to the limits of what I know how to do. That may be quite possible as I’ve said before, I am not a mechanic, I only play one on TV. No seriously. I know I don’t have any of the experience and only a little of the know how. I have to admit, I’ve enjoyed this process and have learned a ton of things about this truck and how engines in general work that I didn’t know. Doing this repair has given me a sense of appreciation for mechanics. Especially the ones who really love this type of work. It is dirty and grimy and the variables of what could be wrong with a complex machine like a modern day automobile seem endless. I know my limits and am just trying to learn more by doing.

I do have one thing holding me back. Well maybe a couple of things. Since I already know how to take all this apart, I’m tempted to go back and try to figure where the hissing vacuum sound is coming from. I might have to take it to a shop to get the timing checked and cleared with one of their scanners but I definitely want to drive it their under its own power. After all this work having it towed to a shop doesn’t sound intriguing at all.

So here I am. Tempted to take all the guts off the engine again, and hopefully find where I may have missed and where that vacuum leak is coming from. It took nearly two weeks of working at it in the evenings and a bit on the weekends to get it apart and back together, but I don’t feel it would take more than a day or two to do it again. Heck…I just did it right.

On the other hand is this just my EGO talking. Keeping me from going to a mechanic and asking for help. I asked myself that often during this repair. With most things that I take on, I like to exhaust all things that are within my capabilities before I relinquish the reins to someone else. If I’m able to learn something and give it a try; why not.

As I write this, my heart is telling me to go back and take the repair apart and see if I can tell what is the problem. If I find nothing and put it all together again and end up right where I am now, I’ve really only wasted a bit of time. With this repair, it really isn’t time wasted though. With each turn of a wrench, or snapping of an electrical connector, I learn something and that intrigues me. I never took an auto mechanic class although I always wanted to. If nothing else than to learn some of the basics.

I’ll let you know in the next post what direction I went. Pray I went the right way at that fork in the road.

Always Remember…You don’t have permission to Quit.

Jeffrey Washington

You may have read an earlier post where, I spoke of missing out on the Detroit Free Press half marathon. Well one thing that that gave me is time. I had time to continue working on the pickup and was able to get a lot done this past weekend. On Saturday, I finally got the intake manifold off the engine. It felt strange how that gave me such a sense of calm and peace just by getting to that part.

On Sunday, I spent the morning cleaning up the surfaces of the parts and getting the manifold ready to go back on. I figured that I had read enough, now is the time to as Nike says, Just Do It. Well my version of just doing it was more like a stutter step.

The intake manifold is this big hunk of aluminum that goes on top of the engine and lots of wires and pipes and other electronics hook to it. It has 8 bolts and must be dropped straight down on the engine, so as not to smear the bead of RTV silicone sealant that I put down on the front and rear of the engine block. One site that I’ve followed extensively suggested a good way to do this is to take a particular brand of Papermate ink pen, cut them down and place them in the holes, so that you could line up the heavier intake manifold. Then you would remove the ink pen parts and bolt away to your hearts content. Sounds good right? WRONG. It didn’t work out like that at all for me. One of the ink pens broke and I had to figure out a way to get the broken piece out of the hole where one of the bolts screws in. That took a while, but eventually I got it done. The next thing was putting on the manifold. Now this site did have a good suggestion which was putting on the manifold in “Practice Runs” a few times before you actually did it to make sure you had all the steps and clearances together. That was a good suggestion. Once I put it on, it went real smooth, right up until I was putting on the last bolt. What the heck! It won’t fit!

I had to take the whole thing off and wipe up all the sealant. Then I realized that another hole where I tried this ink pen idea had a part of the pen stuck in it as well. Aaargh. Why me? OK, pull it back together and let’s move on. At least this time I knew just how to get the pen piece out. Let’s try this again. 1,2,3…Like a Glove. Well not exactly; but it did go on just as I had hoped. After all of this I was spent. Energy gone. Amy, my wife, you remember her right? Real nice lady. She must have had pity on me.

I forgot to tell you that to get the manifold on the engine, I figured it would be better for me to sit with my legs in the engine bay. Now that’s a tight fit with the engine and all these wires and pipes and so forth, but I pulled it off even with these hams called calves of mine. Once I was there, I realize that this whole process of getting in and out of this engine bay is too much to do over and over. I try and call my oldest, Alyssia. No Answer. Use my phone…don’t have that either. CRAP. Come on Jeffrey, Improvise, Adapt, Overcome. I take my key fob out for our minivan and hit the alert. This makes the horn go off and on as well as the lights blink repeatedly. Thank goodness, Amy comes to the door and asks me is everything OK. I tell her that I am fine but I need Alyssia’s help since I’m in the engine bay. Shortly thereafter she comes out and gives me a hand, handing me a few tools that I didn’t think I needed.

As I said earlier, Amy must have taken pity on me. Unbeknownst to me while I’m all hunched over the Chevy Silverado Engine, she is in the house, making Peach Cobbler. I hugged her for a long time when I saw it. I was so tired and spent, that cobbler looked sooooo good. I guess you can see why I’m not the thinnest fella. Oh yeah it tasted good to. With a little vanilla ice cream. MMMMMMMM, MMMMMMMMM. Now that’s good. I’m getting hungry again just writing about it.

The next day after work, I put the distributor back on. No that is a little tricky. I had to get it pretty much just like it came off the engine. Otherwise the timing would be all screwed and I may not be able to start the truck. I did mark the distributor and rotor, before removing them, so this went OK. I did have a time getting it to fit just right and to match up with the oil pump, down in the whole of the engine, but it came together. The true test will be when everything is buttoned up and it’s time to start it up.

Always Remember…You don’t have permission to Quit.

Jeffrey Washington

Star Date: 15 October in the year of 2012.


That’s about all I can say about this next chapter in the truck repair saga. Whew!!! I just took off the intake manifold and have started cleaning up the manifold. Some of the sites that I’ve been looking to for information, said that the manifold might need to be pried up since it is held down at the ends by a RTV silicone type gasket. Not so with mine. It came off easily, too easily. As a matter of fact the gasket on both ends, appeared awfully thin and probably was doing a poor job of sealing. I also looked at the old gaskets. They were in horrible condition. I thought I would see a few spots where the gaskets failed and were showing signs of failure. The end of one of the gaskets came off right in my hand and the other one was nearly as bad. There were also spots where it was obvious that the seal had failed. In a nutshell, the old gaskets personified massive failure.

I was shocked to find that the gaskets were a Fel-Pro product with a portion of it having a metal core. Let me back up and explain. The gaskets that were from the factory apparently were just plastic and were compromised by the new Dex-Cool coolant that General Motors began using in their vehicles. The new gaskets have a metal core over the entire area of the gasket, but the gaskets I took off had a partial metal core. It makes me think that these gaskets probably were replaced at some time in the past. I wouldn’t be surprised. When we bought the truck it had 124,000 miles and the son of the owner runs a garage about 15 miles from our home in Davison, MI, which is where we bought the truck in 2004.

On to cleaning up all the surfaces that are getting new gaskets and and RTV. I’ll try and add a few pictures with the next post about the truck.

Always Remember…you don’t have permission to Quit.

Jeffrey Washington

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