Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Fuel Pump and A Memory

I replaced a fuel pump today. It took much longer than anticipated.

I began working and the job went quickly and easily. Collected needed tools, unhooked one battery cable, pumped the gas from the tank, jacked up the car, unhooked the fuel filter ensuring there was no press in the line, removed three bolts that held the tank in place and came to a screeching halt. I couldn't disconnect the fuel line from the tank.

Fuel pump assembly.
Fuel pump assembly ready for reinstallation. (Larger version)

I had the right tool in the right size but 10 years of accumulated dirt and corrosion held it tight. I sprayed a penetrating lubricant, waited a while and tried again without success. Frustrating! Because I had to disconnect the line before I could drop the tank more than a few inches I was trying to work without being able to get good grip with both hands. The cistern was down to 300 gallons and I needed to finish the job in time to haul water later in the day. Weekend guests would arrive that night. Extremely frustrating to be held up by a simple connection.

Finally I resorted to disconnecting five feet of metal fuel line and removed the tank slowly while unthreading the line from the frame of the car. My plan was to get the tank off, remove the line, reinstall it, replace the pump and then reinstall the tank. It didn't happen. I was never able to disconnect the line so I replaced the pump and reinstalled the tank and fuel line by slowing rethreading the line through the frame.

Problem fuel connection.
The problematic fuel connection circled in red and the blue tool to release the connection. (Larger version)

As I worked I thought of a memory from the late 1950s or early 1960s. My father and I were working on something that was being challenging. My natural temptation is to get a bigger tool or a hammer or use more force. My father had worked in coal mines, had owned a garage with his brother, was foreman of a furniture company, was a flight engineer on bombers in WWII and had worked for several years as a machinist. He has faced many challenges and the temptation to use more force. As we worked he told me of hearing that in Germany apprentice mechanics were not permitted to have a hammer in their tool box until they had a great deal of experience. That story sounds a little apocryphal but it stuck with me. Be patient, think, use the right tools and don't resort to excessive force.

Defective fuel pump.
Defective fuel pump. (Larger version)

In the end I had the tank reinstalled and gas in the tank. I turned the key and the car started immediately -- thanks in part to my father's words and example.


Blogger Tim Hodgens said...


Fascinating how the memory, with embedded message, became the tool which enabled you to finish the project.


6/20/2009 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Buffalo said...

Good for you! If patience is a virtue I know I am hell bound. Obviously you are going the other way.

6/20/2009 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

You wimp! Every MANLY MAN knows that hammers can fix anything, sometimes forever!

I know what it's like to be in tight quarters with no leverage. I served on submarines.

6/20/2009 04:28:00 PM  

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