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New project death-cycle

I started full of enthusiasm and good cheer. The preparations for a thoroughly enjoyable Saturday were complete. On two tables were spread the tools, books and spare parts for the job. Merry Timing Belt Change Day to me. As I flounced around the garage, I noticed other things that needed fixing. No job too tough for thoroughly prepared new project boy and his super heroic tool kit.

The sun was rounding the house and was already on the back of the Civic as I started to lift the front end. The rising temperature accompanied the rising cheer in my heart. I was going to do it. The timing belt prize would be mine. I was prepared. I was armed. I was dangerous.

The first steps went well, and I laughed at the incompleteness of the manual, and patted myself on the back each time I figured out what needed to be done. My shiny tools did their job, and I did mine. We ploughed on with the laughably curt instructions, and the plan was coming together. I love it when a plan comes together.

Progress slowed when I got to the engine mounts. I broke several tools on one particularly stubborn bolt. I have never twisted a ratchet extension bar to the point that it shears in half before. I attacked the nut with other tools. I enjoyed the challenge, and invented new tools with pipes and duct tape. They broke too. I hefted and lurched with might at the recalcitrant fastener, and finally the feeling of despair took hold. The despair of the unexpected and the associated delays. That part when the project suddenly veers off plan, and its new destination is somewhere between disaster and a glimmer of a modicum of success. That part of the project when you realise that only an obscene amount of perseverance will steer it away from almost certain doom.

Anguish settled in my bones and weighed me down. The sun had arced over its highpoint – it was only going to get lower from now. I realised that the nut I was trying to undo was welded to a piece of engine mount, and easily undid the bolt from the other side. “How foolish!” I admonished myself, and was once again heartened by apparent progress.

Then I attacked the second engine mounting nut. 17mm. No bolt from the other side. I kicked, hammered and heaved. I wrenched yanked and chiselled. I grabbed and pulled as hard as I could. It wouldn’t budge. It was surely welded too, like the other nut. But there was no other way. I pulled as hard as I could, stopping when I thought I might burst an arm. I walked away with my head low, and sat in front of the interweb. Grubby fingers smeared grease on the keyboard as I searched in vain for any tips that other people could give on the six word stumbling block in the manual: “Remove left hand upper engine mounting.”

The sun was low in the sky as I went back to the car having found no help or advice. I resolved to put the car back to a running state, and accept failure. I tried one last smack with a three foot long piece of wood against the wrench on the nut, and to my surprise, it cracked. I hit it again, rushing with excitement as the nut steadily creaked through a quarter turn. It was mine. It came off and I stood back triumphant. Another few lines down in the manual, and another innocuous instruction presented itself: “Loosen the pulley-to-crankshaft bolt with a socket and breaker bar.”

My heart sank. It had taken me three hours and a number of tool explosions to undo two fasteners that had no cautionary notes in the manual. This time, a breaker bar was required. And the bolt was set into a rotating shaft. An assistant with a screwdriver could stop the flywheel rotating to allow the bolt to be undone. Utter bunkum, I thought to myself. A quick check on the interweb confirmed my fears. The only account I could find of someone successfully undoing the offending bolt had severe warnings. “I broke two extension bars on this… it took me three hours to devise a system to undo it with a five foot breaker bar.” My mood plummetted, the sun said goodbye on its journey below the rooftops opposite, and I closed the bonnet on the Civic.

I must go to the tool shop for finer munitions, and possibly call for reinforcements. This is no longer a pleasant timing belt project. This is a war against fasteners. Both sides are expected to take substantial casualties. A war of attrition and skinned knuckles.

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