What should have been a relaxing weekend of picking up last minute supplies and tying up loose ends for our Idaho Overland Expedition- became a race against several clocks to find parts, disassemble a transmission, and replace a clutch, pinion and throw-out bearings, as well as the slave cylinder on our expedition rig.
With Melissa now working nights, Abby and I use the day to run errands so the house is nice and quiet for our slumbering Vet Tech. We started the morning with a Daddy-Daughter breakfast, picked up our backpacking meals for the trip, and made the mandatory Harbor Freight run. We also decided (together) to go ahead and change the oil at Jiffy Lube.
I have been using the same shop for several years now and they know my vehicles pretty well. The tech commented on how bad the throw-out bearing was sounding. The throw-out bearing is what allows parts of the transmission to engage and disengage from the motor/flywheel. Not going to go into detail- just understand its really important component.
Throw-out bearings are pre-lubricated and sealed at the factory. To replace it, Carl and I would need to remove the transmission. At this point, it is practical to replace the clutch too and pinion bearing since the overall labor is only minimally increased by renewing the entire system.
In a jam like this—I call Carl.
If you frequent the blog or podcast you have already met Carl. If not- I will give a quick intro.
I first met Carl 5-6 years ago when I interviewed him for the podcast. He was on the board for a local ATV club and an ardent access rights activist. Completely dedicated to the off-road world. He is an outstanding ride leader, knows every trail in Idaho, and is the best source of information for anything in the outdoors that has a trail. He is also a kick@$$ mechanic and a great teacher. He has also become a great friend this last year as he has taken me through several lessons on fixing cars. The guy should be an instructor somewhere.
So with an emergency call to Carl I get him talked into at least looking at the rig. Understanding this is late Saturday afternoon, this is a big project, part stores are closing soon, and he and I both work on Monday. I work hard to convince him we can do this. He (sort-of) agrees. I am highly confident in him. He probably thinks I’m naive at this point.
Carl decides after further inspection- it’s possibly several things. We decide to locate and pick-up replacement slave cylinder, clutch fork, pinion bearing, and throw-out bearing. The latter two come in a clutch kit- so while in there we decide to swap that as well. With the whiny voice of a 6 year- old in a toy store we decide (well Carl decides) to tackle the project.
So as we chase down parts, pick up my other rig, drop me off so I can take the vet-nurse to work, the Jeep is left to cool down. Carl and I meet back up around 6 pm. I come with tacos in hand. After a quick inhalation of a 12 pack from Taco Hell- we start on the project.
To my surprise (and Carl’s) the slave cylinder is quickly replaced. We then begin the process of pulling the tranny.This begins with removal of the skid plate, unhooking all the electrical and vacuum lines, unbolting the exhaust system, unhooking the drive line, removing the starter, and THEN unbolting the tranny. This takes about 2 ½ hours and we are amazed at our progress. We even take a quick break to chase down a few tools to rent. Less than three hours into it and transmission sits on a floor jack ready to be repaired. We pull the clutch and it looks like it has 500-1000 miles of life left on it. It was so worn, the rivets holding the pad are ready to fall out.
With Carl as my Zen master the past few months, I have gained a confidence in working on my Jeep…and I am getting to where I can predict his next move pretty well. This helps with the speed of things and makes his role allot easier.
The next morning we meet at 9 am. For a pancake breakfast (Carl is also an incredible cook- I dread the day he finds that special someone- I will lose a great friend/mechanic/rc truck pal). After our bellies are satisfied we begin the process of exchanging parts.The pinion as Carl predicted is shot. It won’t even spin. The throw-out bearing looks just as bad. While the clutch fork and ball looks pretty good, we decide since we are there and have the part, we will swap it out. Another 2 ½ hours we have everything replaced, fire up the rig, and notice an instant difference!
Total cost for parts, tool rental, gas, and Tacos (and a small “thank you”) was around $500. The lesson I got was much more than that and I really did have a good time working with him on the rig. In fact would do another with him – even if it wasn’t mine.
Carl saved my expedition for that – I am truly grateful. I was confident we could do it.