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

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

I’m taking the plunge. For more time than I care to admit, my 1996 Chevy Pickup has been running a bit rough. The idle is around 1500 rpms, while your sitting still instead of the normal of 600 rpm. I’ve taken it to a couple repair shops and have been told by both that I need my intake manifold gaskets replaced. The first place I went to said they would charge around $600.00 plus parts and knowing how much they mark up for parts, the job probably would be hovering around $900.00 or so.

The second shop flat out told me that the cost would be around $1000.00. Welll, that gave me plenty of pause. I had to buy a set of tires last year because the slipping and sliding was getting a bit dangerous. Along with the higher revving engine, I hated driving my truck in the winter. Now what is the purpose of having 4 X 4 pickup in a part of the country that gets its fair amount of snow if you can’t drive it. My sentiment exactly. The elephant in the room is $1000 on a fifteen year old pickup truck with 140,000+ miles.

I’ve always wondered if this is a repair that I could do myself. I’m not afraid of getting my hands dirty. Just this summer, my youngest child, Jorden, helped me put a new alternator in the truck after it bought the farm. We had a good time and felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment after we completed the task. Compared to intake manifold gaskets, I imagine, this will look like child’s play.

I checked around on the internet and was happy to find a couple sites, where regular guys like myself, chronicled their experiences with this very same repair. They discussed the parts needed, had plenty of pictures and a lot of text explaining what they did and the problems they faced. I was elated. The parts appear to cost around $150.00. I would only have to input the time.

Well I checked around and found all the parts on and ordered what I needed. I thought about just going to a shop nearby, but some of the parts were significantly cheaper for the exact same item and manufacturer. I’m taking the plunge and I think I will take along this blog for the ride.

I consider this somewhat a story of keeping up with a survival skill as it is important to learn new things and save any money you can to put in more important areas in your life and family.

This will probably be an ongoing series of a few blog posts chronicling how it all went. I’m looking forward to the truck running much better and getting back to being fun to drive. I’ve got a feeling I’m really going to test my motto found below. 🙂 Wish me well.

Remember…you don’t have permission to quit.

Jeffrey Washington


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