Ladies and Gentlemen. Everyday miracles happen. Sometimes we see them and most of the time we don’t. In our midst. In our country; a miracle happened in 2011 and it was in view for all of us to see. Her name is Gabrielle Giffords. A U.S. Congresswoman from the state of Arizona.

You remember her story back in January of 2011, while outside a grocery store, preparing to speak to her constituents, she was shot by a lone gun man with some sort of twisted agenda. She was waiting to do a presentation to her and happened to invite a young neighbor girl along that showed some interest in politics. Before she could even get started; tragedy struck.

I don’t want to spend much time on what happened. That atrocity isn’t the miracle. The miracle is that she is still here. Not only is she still here she is living and striving and the personification of a miracle walking, talking and breathing.

She has released a book: Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope
She recently began a tour with the book and spoke to Diane Sawyer of ABC news. One of the adjectives used to describe her was having a never quit attitude. I love it. It is everything that I believe in and promote here through words, video and audio sources.

The piece done by Diane Sawyer is a true testament and shows her courage, grit and tenacity. She has come so far in just a short period of time. Her husband, Mark Kelly began recording her rehabilitation early on and said he did so because he knew she would want to know how it happened. Sadly there were six other people that died during that tragedy, including Christina Taylor-Green, who I spoke about earlier. Her bold endeavor to get back to good health is a true honor to the six that were lost on that day. She is a true inspiration.

One day I would love to interview her for this Blog, so I’m throwing that one to the universe.

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

Jeffrey Washington

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

It’s amazing what a few years will do for the skin. Usually you hear that with more youthful exuberance. My eyes don’t work as fast as they used to. A few aches I didn’t have before. Takes a bit longer to get up in the morning and who’s idea was ear and nose hair. All signs of getting older, but I am so grateful. Many people loathe the incremental increases in age. I embrace it. No day, including today, is promised to us, so I like to embrace them all like a bear hug.

My father, Joe Washington, didn’t make it this far. He died from a heart attack when he was 41. Actually barely 41 for only a couple months. His father, died at 41 and his brother died when he was about 40 or 41 as well. Needless to say I’m grateful for each and every day. I always try to honor his memory and legacy and make him proud of his oldest child. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him.

I must admit it feels a little strange. As exciting as it is,  it also feels like I’m hiking down this path that’s uncharted and never been used. I hope I live a good long life and in the best health that I have control over. I am overweight, but I try to stay fit. I’m still training for two half marathons in October 2011. My 4th and 5th and I can’t wait.

I’m excited to be at 44 and looking forward to more than just watching a ball game or something like that. My oldest daughter graduated from high school this year and I’m looking forward to great things from all three of my children. They are great young people that make me so proud  and they should do well in life if they stay focused and never quit.

I imagine weddings and grandchildren are in our near future, but the thing that brings me the most joy is the 21+ years with my wife Amy. It is in my opinion the glue that holds our family together. She has been there for me  all this time as I always try to do the same for her. She is the love of my life and I look forward to many more years with each other. If she’ll have me. 🙂

Always remember…you don’t have permission to quit,


Jeffrey Washington


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