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Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Acura


The Acura gave me some problems this week. On day, when I fired it up, it seemed a bit sluggish, as though it did not want to go anywhere. I let it sit for a bit and warm up, and then I took off. First gear, no, problem. I switched from first to second. It acted like I had gone directly to fourth. Any stick drivers will know what I mean when I say that. The car started shaking and vibrating, and the engine sounded like it was about to die. I quickly disengaged the transmission, looked wierdly at Ken (because we all know that he had something to do with it), and tried again. By this point, I was at the exit for the apartments. I put it in first gear, and once again it acted like it was cold, but I gave it a bit more juice and took off. I put it in second. No power, up until high RPM. Third: almost normal. Fourth: almost normal. Overdrive: over drove it. :) When I put it in O/D, the car began to decelerate. Not a good sign. I decided that the car should not go anywhere that day and took it back to the lot. Ken got his car, and I popped the hood on mine. When he pulled up, the engine on my car was still running, and I was looking at it like I knew what I was looking for. I asked him to rev the engine on my car, so he got out of his car and did so. In neutral, the engine started to shake back and forth. My first thought was that it was a spark plug problem. One of them had to be misfiring. Why else would it vibrate regularly? If it was irregular, it may be a faulty plug, but this was definitely a bad plug.

Throughout the course of that day, I wondered if it could be anything else. I thought about what I remembered when Dad explained engines to me (even though in my stupid youth I didn't care). I realized it could be one of the wires, the distrubutor cap, or the distributor -- or any/all of the above! This was going to be expensive, I could tell...

Today, Josh and I went to Advance Auto Parts, and picked up spark plugs, wires, the distributor cap, and (just in case) the rotor. The distributor was around $350, so I decided to hold off on that one, just in case. The rest cost me about $80. The manual I had purchased for the car when I fixed the brakes came in very handy now. It showed me how to do all this stuff, and as I looked at the engine, it all made sense anyway. I popped out wire #1, and pulled out the first spark plug. It was fine, aside from normal wear and tear. I popped out wire #2 and the spark plug. The wire had a bit of oil on it, but I didn't think twice about it.

{brief side note}

For all of you people out there, for those of you who know engines, the spark plug wires are not bare wires. They are heavily encased in rubber, like other wires, and the casing gets heavier when it actually connects to the spark plug. Thus, I'm using "wire" analogously, not meaning the wire itself, but the rubber insulation around the wire.

{end side note}

I took out the second spark plug. It was coated in oil. This obviously wasn't normal. If it was, how in the world was it supposed to fire? Josh went back to the apartment to get some paper towels. I called Dad again, just to verify what I was thinking. He agreed with me: no, the spark plug is most definitely not supposed to be coated in oil. He recommended that I get the system flushed, and refilled with a heavier oil, because this was too light, and it had to be leaking everywhere. As I looked around the engine, sure enough, it had leaked, and was now covering things that had been clean before. Indeed, I thought cleverly to myself, this is the cause of my problems!

I removed the other two wires, and I noted with some dismay that the wires were also covered in oil, as #2 had been. And it was with some shock that I pulled out the other two spark plugs and they were also covered in oil. No wonder the car was vibrating and acting like it had no power! It was only running on one spark plug!

Josh came back with the paper towels, and he was as surprised as I was to find out that the car was only running on one spark plug. Pat came jogging up a couple minutes later, as I was trying to clean out the oily insides. I trashed the old spark plugs, just in case, and installed the new ones. After I installed the new ones, it occurred to me that I may be dunking them in an oil well. So I removed the new ones to find that they were slighly coated in oil, but not much. I wiped them off and reinstalled them. I cleaned off the wires, and put them back on. Then I fired up the Acura.

Blue smoke came pouring out the exhaust pipe. That's usually a good sign that there is an oil leak. I got out of the car and Josh and Pat both pointed out the blue cloud to me. By this point, I had found the switch in the engine which I can move to rev the engine, so I revved the engine from there, and watched. More blue smoke poured out, but as I kept revving it, it cleared up. So far, so good...

I'm going to take it back to Front Royal and bring the Sentra out of hiding (again). I'm hoping to give it to a mechanic out there to get them to flush out the engine and tell me a few things about the car, i.e., if I have a cracked block...

If I do, oh boy... Gontran and his wife will get some bad news about their baby...

(Gontran is the guy at work from whom I purchased the Acura. They are very appreciative of the fact that I'm taking good care of it, but if it has a cracked block, there's not much I can do for it, aside from replace the engine...)

{Anthony dreams of a seven-speed with a V8...} ;) Just kidding. Sorry, guys...
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