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All I can give you today is a smile

May 16, 2013

All I can give you today is a smile

“I think you need a new radiator.”


When one door closes . . . .

August 7, 2012

None of the other doors will open, either! Wait, that’s not how the saying goes.

Welcome to . . . .

Part 1: How to Replace a Door Handle on a 1995 Hyundai Accent


Surprisingly, a lot of results show up when I search for this on Google. This seems to be an issue that afflicts the owners of cars equipped with plastic handles, especially Hyundais. The Hyundai is economical and cheap, but no one ever claimed it was invincible. Having become thoroughly disappointed with the lackluster articles available on replacing one’s door handle, I have decided to create my own. Every article I have read explains things simply, but leaves out vital information. Such as, “How am I supposed to get this #*@$*! inside door handle out– it seems to be stuck!” and other fun questions like, “What do I do when my #@$% window crank clip appears to be lodged somewhere it shouldn’t be?”

I’ve seen a number of comments on these articles that are written by people who are clearly geniuses, and much more well-versed in both the automotive industry and the English language than I could ever hope to be. For example: “Dude, yur f#$@ retarded this is sooo easy all u do is pop it off, hahahahaha.” My friend, I wish I had your dexterity and intelligence: surely, if I did, I wouldn’t be in this predicament!

All joking aside, I will endeavor to make this the best article you’ve ever read on replacing those pesky handles. This is the article that I wish I could have found before deciding to snap off the plastic in a bout of impatient anger. This job is not difficult, but it is tedious. If your car is older, like mine is, you will likely run into other problems. I am making this article specific to a ’95 Accent, but it may be helpful for other models as well.

The first few steps: Removing the door panel

There are a number of steps to removing your panel. It could be ridiculously easy and only take you a few minutes, or you may run into some issues.

First of all, be aware that your door panel is made of cheap material, cardboard, and a plastic sleeve on the inside, so don’t be too hard on it, or you may effectively bend or rip your panel.

You will notice there are a few visible screws that hold the panel on. Remove these. There are two in the arm rest, and one in the inside door handle.

I suggest you get the annoying parts out of the way first: namely, the window crank. You will probably hear a lot of people say it’s very easy, but unfortunately, this is kind of a pain, and very tedious. There are two ways you could go about it. You may be able to remove it by taking a shop rag and inserting it between the window crank and the plastic ring, or gasket, that sits against the door panel. Please note, the clip should be in between the window crank and the plastic ring, not in between the plastic ring and the door panel. Maneuvering a rag in between the crank and the plastic ring may catch the clip and pop it out. Work the rag around and around until you get it. Here’s a video that shows you how that works:

Now, these videos always make it look really easy. I’m going to warn you, you can run into difficulties with any project. It took me much longer than expected to remove the clip that holds my window crank. When it was finally removed, it appeared that the clip had gotten lodged at an angle, stuck against the inside of the plastic gasket in such a way that removal was very difficult. These are the things they don’t mention in the articles and videos. Be aware that you may have the same problem.

There is also a special universal tool for removing window cranks; mine cost me five bucks. You can get it at your local auto parts store.

My door handles are a mess, so it is possible that I am having more trouble than most people will. See for yourself! And no, no one tried to break in.

This is my passenger side. The locking mechanism and the remainder of the shattered handle are hanging inside the door.

Now that you have removed your window crank clip, you need to remove the inner door handle. This was a pain for me, too.

Although the inside handle should pop out easily, just enough for you to reach the two spots where the handle is linked to the locking mechanism and the actual latch, it wasn’t easy for me. My inner door handle was somehow stuck, or lodged against something inside the panel. It took me much longer than expected to remove it. Be aware that you may also run into this problem.

Inside the inner handle, you will need to disconnect it from the lock and the latch. Each are connected by a plastic piece. Be careful: if you’re too rough, you may damage the plastic piece. However, your new handle may have come with replacement pieces, so that could be handy.

Take a look at these photos:

This is where you will find your window crank clip. It should sit in the groove that you see, next to the ridges.

As you can see, my handle was already broken. Perhaps that was why it was more difficult to remove.

This is the lead used to open the door. This is the plastic piece that I mentioned. When you install your new handle, this will connect to it.

You will need to remove the inside handle before you can remove the panel. It may pop right out. The arrow indicates one of the connections you will have to remove before taking out the handle completely. The other connection has already been removed in this picture.

At last! The panel is off. That was more of a pain than I had anticipated.

I couldn’t finish the job today: I live in Florida and it’s August. Need I say more?

Stay tuned for Part 2, when I will walk you through installing your new handles. Good night for now!

Sweet Anticipation

April 18, 2012

She gasped, looking down at the massive cardboard box, a gleeful expression on her face.  What was in this box? Was it a gift from an admirer? Was it–

She grabbed the scissors, and tore through the tape.  Another box was sealed inside, only succeeding in frustrating her further.  She was so excited, she could hardly stand it!

What is it that this young woman has received in the mail? What could be in this box?

Ah! The red paint gleamed under the sunlight.  The metallic surfaces clinked musically together.

Happily, she reached inside and extracted the shiny new items–

“Oh boy! My 3-ton jack stands have arrived!”

Okay, so it wasn’t what you expected.

Diamonds are not a girl’s best friend.

List of items that are a girl’s best friend:

Jack stands

Power tools

Impact wrenches

Socket sets

And anything with engine grease on it.

What can I say? I’m easy to please.

“You’re a real mechanic now, ha-ha!”

December 8, 2011

That’s what my dad said to me when I shrieked into the phone, “Oh, shit, I got brake fluid in my eye!” He had been coaching me, twelve-hundred miles away, while I was working on my car.  I stayed on the phone with him while I ran upstairs and washed my eyes out.

Dad thought it was hilarious.  I wish I could hear Dad’s laugh again.  “You’ve been christened!” he announced.

If Dad were here now, I would tell him about Transmissions class the other day.  I was putting the pan back onto the transmission, and I inadvertently opened my mouth (only slightly) and some of the Automatic Transmission Fluid leaked right into my mouth.

Mmm, tangy.  Actually, it wasn’t tangy.  It was kinda dry and dull, but with an undefined bite to it, sort of like vermouth.  However, I wouldn’t suggest mixing ATF into your drinks.

Today, I was at the meeting for the race team, and I was trying to extract a gauge from its sheet-metal housing.  I sliced my finger open in two places, tried to staunch the bleeding without anyone noticing, and then wrapped a paper towel around it.

“Don’t you want a band-aid for that?” someone asked.

“No, I’m good,” I said.

“Are you sure . . . ?”

“Yeah.  I’ll just wait for the bleeding to stop.”

“Just like a mechanic.”

I was reminded of my Dad, and he probably would have laughed and said, “Like father like daughter.”  Who wants to waste time putting on a band-aid when you can just keep working?

I always cut myself when I’m working on a car, but it never hurts.  The cuts that happen while you’re doing something that you love are never quite so bothersome as injuries that happen when you’re doing something you can’t stand.

Well, Dad, I guess I am a real mechanic after all.  Wish you could see me now.

A very brief introduction: Transmissions and Transaxles

December 2, 2011

I hereby admit that I am a nerd.

Ever wondered how your transmission works? Your car is propelled by power and torque, and a lot of this is accomplished by gears.

Without the mechanical advantage of the gearing within a transmission or transaxle, the engine would remain at low speeds and produce extremely limited torque.  (More on torque later).

The gearing of a transmission or transaxle is necessary to move a vehicle in a different direction.  The crankshaft rotates in the same direction all the time.  This means that if the power from the crankshaft were to go right to the drive wheels, we could only drive the car in one direction.  One direction for the crankshaft, one direction for the car.  How do we enable it to drive in reverse? We need the gearing provided by the transmission or transaxle.  We also need gearing for neutral, which stops the power from going to the wheels.

Wait, I thought I had a transmission? What the heck is a transaxle?

There are some major differences between a transmission and a transaxle.  Firstly, a car with a transaxle is commonly front-wheel-drive, while transmissions are generally found in vehicles that are rear-wheel-drive.

Transaxles are also unique in that the differential and transmission gearing are in the same case housing.  (Also, more on differentials later).

Four-wheel-drive vehicles are generally equipped with a transmission and transfer case, which is found on the side or back of the transmission, and transfers power from the transmission to two separate drive shafts.  From there, power goes from one drive shaft to a differential on the front drive axle.  The second drive shaft connects to a rear drive axle differential.  I’ll break that down in future posts on transmissions, transaxles, and differentials.

For the most part, transmissions and transaxles are in constant mesh, meaning that whether or not a gear is locked in place—locked to the output shaft—the gear is still in mesh with its counter gear.  To clarify, the output shaft is exactly what it sounds like; power is generated and becomes the output that is sent through the drive train to the wheels.

Another commonality between transmissions and transaxles is that they have various speed gears, one reverse speed—which is usually provided by an idler gear that is placed between a drive gear and a driven gear—and a neutral gear.  Overdrive—fifth and sixth gears—actually reduces engine speeds while at the same time increasing the actual speed of the vehicle and improving fuel economy.

Pretty wild, eh?

How clutches work

October 10, 2011

There’s just something about it.

October 5, 2011

I’ve had an awful couple of days.  No point going into it here.  But I started a new class the other day– Transmissions –and I am loving it so far.  This was the reason I went into automotive.  The main driving force behind my decision (no pun intended) was transmissions.  Dad was going to show me how to rebuild them, but I moved away, and then the accident happened.  I wish he could see how far I have come.  I know he is proud of me anyway, but I wish he could see it.

This evening, we broke up into two teams and dropped the transmissions from a Ford Ranger and a PT Cruiser.  I don’t think I have to mention that I gravitated to the truck– I have too many negative things to say about PT Cruisers.

Side-note: What is this recent obsession with making everything “retro”? If you want a car that looks like a classic, get a classic! Don’t design a new and so-called “improved” vehicle that sort of looks like it might be a classic.  I mean, come on.  It’s like buying a pair of pre-faded jeans.  For crying out loud, either get regular jeans and work like a normal person until you have holes or fading on your regular jeans, or . . . I don’t know, don’t wear pants.  Or, buy a car that really is a classic, or don’t, and instead buy a PT Cruiser, which is (no offense to Cruiser owners) a POS.  Old cars were awesome.  This is not awesome:

I admit that I may have gotten carried away in my attempt at comparing PT Cruisers with pre-faded jeans.  I digress.

Prior to attending school, I have seen disassembled clutches only in junk yards.  The way they work is quite fascinating, and I will write more about it later on.

As I said, today and yesterday were both depressing and grueling, for personal reasons.  I cannot explain it, but for some reason, when I am looking at the underside of a car, or tinkering with the engine, or messing around with anything car-related, every ounce of depression just dissipates quietly, and I’m left with this ear-to-ear grin on my face.  I felt so much better after class tonight.  Doing this kind of work just makes me happy.

A few years ago, somebody said to me, “You’re a writer.  Shouldn’t you just do that? Why would you want to be a mechanic?”

My response: Where’s the fun in that? If you don’t enjoy life and gather experiences, what in the world are you going to write about?

Now, this is a car.  Compare with the above picture.  Which would you rather have? An oldschool Woodie, or a PT Cruiser and a pair of pre-faded Levis?