Vehicle Maintenance

Given the rather high cost of auto service in the islands I tend to do the basic and easy stuff myself. Oil changes, brake pads, even the occasional wheel bearing.

The vehicle up on axle stands while replacing the sway bar links
The vehicle up on axle stands while replacing the sway bar links

When I did that bearing I noted the brakes were just fine and the new brake pads ordered at the same time had remained sitting on the shelf.

There the pads have sat for over two years. So a week ago I inspect the brakes again and find out the brakes are fine.

The sway bar links?

Not so much.

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New Front Bearings for the Ford Explorer

My vehicle comes to a rather abrupt stop, the front brakes lock up while pulling onto Paniolo drive, the main road serving the village. I am stuck across the northbound lanes.

Ford Explorer Front Bearing Repair
The front bearing of the Explorer removed and the mounting cleaned up. Ready for re-installation!
Well? This is awkward.

Shut down, restart, nothing unlocks the brakes. I am still stuck in the middle of the road. Another driver gives me a quizzical look and drives around me.

With no other idea I put the vehicle in 4WD low and drag the locked front tires backwards into the side street where I can safely work on the issue, I left skid marks in the road.

In retrospect the failure was not a complete surprise… I knew the front bearings were going, making noise, but the vehicle was still driveable. Over the last week I had checked on prices and asked about with the guys about borrowed tools to do the job. I was thinking I had a few weeks before the issue was truly an issue.


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Pump Trouble

My old Ford Explorer has been a surprisingly reliable vehicle, even now with nearly 200,000 miles behind it. True, it is showing its age and there are a few things that do not work. It still gets decent gas mileage, has not soaked up much cash for repairs, and has always gotten me home. The vehicle continues to get me to work and the beach, what else can I ask for?

OK, have to scratch the get me home part.

At least it failed in the parking lot at Keck. Lots of cranking, no ignition, no fuel. And it fails on a Friday afternoon, when I fly to California the next morning. So the vehicle sits at work for a week.

When I do get a chance to work on it, I quickly determine the issue is the fuel pump. There is no gas getting to the engine. No problem, I can fix this one.

Get the vehicle towed home, jack one side up and drop the fuel tank. Of course I had a nearly full tank of gas when the pump failed. Murphy strikes again! It is necessary to get the gas out of the tank before removing it from the vehicle. I had to siphon the fuel out, a slow process to remove twelve gallons. Not having enough gas can capacity I had to dump it somewhere… I wonder if my wife will figure out why she got such excellent mileage out of her last tank.

Pulling the Tank
Pulling the fuel tank from a 1995 Ford Explorer

The tank is actually pretty easy to remove, a handful of lines, one cable and seven bolts need to be removed. The only real problem I had was that the bolts had not been removed since the vehicle was new, 18 years ago.

Every single bolt was a struggle, using my full strength to back the bolts out, 1/6th of a turn at a time. I really need to consider the purchase of an impact wrench. What took two hours to get out took 20 minutes to get back in once all of the bolts were out, cleaned up and hit with a little WD-40.

When I pulled the original pump out of the tank I grabbed a 12V battery pack and tested it. No problem, the pump starts right up? I also check the wiring, some of he connectors are a bit corroded, though not horrible. I clean those up and grease with silicone contact sealer.

Pulling the replacement pump from it’s box I also connected it to the battery. I was not impressed. The new pump ran rough, sounding rough and vibrating notably in my hand. The motor was clearly poorly balanced or the quality of the bearings suspect. This was not a part that I wanted to put in my vehicle. I have learned the hard way to check the quality of repair parts from the local NAPA Auto Parts. Some parts are fairly decent, others are suspect, perhaps victims of intense cost pressures.

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