I almost gave up… but I didn’t!!!

If you’ve watched my recent videos about changing the leaf springs on my Jeep Cherokee, you know it turned out to be a difficult process.  If you didn’t watch them… well, let me tell you where my mind went throughout the ordeal.

I started off the adventure with the highest of expectations and though to myself, this will be a fun challenge.  I researched and ordered parts, read reviews, and familiarized myself with the basic procedures of changing leaf springs.

Then… I got into some in depth reading about what challenges I was going to face… and I will be 100% percent honest….  I was SCARED by the end of it.  I read horror story after horror story.  I read stories about people giving up and having to pay hundreds of dollars to get their Jeep towed to a mechanic to fix the mess that they created and spending tons of cash before it was all said and done.

By the time I actually got around to trying to actually do the repair, I had psyched myself out so much, that I was, once again, totally intimidated to be working on my own vehicle.

And I will say, I probably didn’t psyche myself out enough.

The whole process turned out to be one of the most challenging and physically demanding things I have ever done.  Not just on my vehicle, but ever…  It wasn’t the most mentally draining task I’ve ever undertaken, or the most physical, and it didn’t get me the most emotional, but when you average all of them together, I will rank it as one of, in not THE, most challenging things I have ever done.

When I first started on the repair, it was going relatively smoothly.  I wasn’t running in to many obstacles that were to daunting or hard to deal with.  It all changed when I got to those stupid leaf spring bolts.  They were a nightmare beyond what I had anticipated.  When I was figuring out times, to decide if this was something I could tackle in a single weekend, I ended up underestimating the time it would take to deal with those bolts by HOURS.  I figured the whole job would take roughly 8 to 10 hours, but at the end, it took over 24 hours, spread out over 2 1/2 days.  I was not prepared for this.

It took a big emotional toll on me.  So much so, that at several points, I was actually thinking of throwing in the towel and either just scrapping the whole Jeep or calling someone to come and tow it to a shop.

I guess the blessing and curse was the fact that I didn’t have another vehicle to drive to work on Monday and I didn’t have any extra money to be paying someone else to fix my vehicle.  So circumstances forced me to continue on with the repairs, even when I was ready to call the whole thing off.

After spending 12 hours in the freezing cold winter weather on Saturday, I dreaded having to go back out on Sunday and finishing things up.  My gas tank has a small leak, and the smell of gas was really bothering my wife inside the house, so I had to keep the garage door open the whole time, allowing the snow and wind to swirl around me while I was torching, cutting, swearing, sweating, cursing, and banging underneath my Jeep.  The added cold certainly didn’t help my disposition, but there were no other options.

By the time I was done on Sunday evening, I didn’t want to think about working on this Jeep ever again.  I swore to myself that I would never deal with leaf springs again, and I promised myself that if I ever doubted my own abilities, rather than trying to muddle through, I would take it to a professional.  I was seriously considering pulling the whole Heap of Jeep youtube channel and website down, because right at that point, I felt like a fraud.  I no longer wanted to be a backyard mechanic.  I no longer wanted to work on my own vehicles.  I didn’t ever want to pick up a wrench or ratchet again!

Thankfully, a couple of weeks have passed, and a calmer head has prevailed.  On Monday, when I could barely move because my body was so banged up, I was joking around at work, saying I would look back on this in a couple of weeks, and say, “That wasn’t so bad… I could do it again”

Truth be told, I think I could do it again, and more than that, I think I WOULD do it again.  I’m certainly a lot wiser about how to tackle this particular job now, but time has healed my wounds and a part of me… that little part that keeps pushing me to do this… is once again taking hold and telling me I can do it, it really wasn’t that bad, and now that I know what I’m doing, I can probably get it done in half the time it took me.

I don’t know if all of that is true, but what I do know is, just like every other repair I have done on this Jeep, I now look at it, and rather than seeing and remembering the nightmare, I see and feel the pride of fixing a problem on my own vehicle.

So, I’m thinking my next few projects won’t be anything close to being that difficult, in fact, I think my next major project is going to be fabricating a roof rack, but the thing with that is, if I don’t finish in one weekend, I can still drive to work on Monday, so there won’t be anywhere near the pressure I was under with the leaf springs.

Would I encourage anyone to undertake changing leaf springs as a backyard mechanic?  That is a hard one to answer.  I’d say it all comes down to how comfortable you are around your vehicle, how determined you are to complete the task yourself, and how big is your tool collection is.  My tool collection is not huge, but I have all of the basics, and a few more specialized tools, and I think I used about 85% of all my tools on this job.  Not every socket or wrench, but every type of socket, deep well, impact, impact extensions, swivel heads, all kinds of wrenches, all kinds of pliers and vice grips, saws, grinders, welders, punches, chisels, vices, and the list goes on and on.  So as long as your mentally ready, physically capable, and have a big enough tool collection, then I think you’d be okay at tackling this particular challenge.

If any of those things are missing though… I’d either remedy that before I started, or cut your losses and hire someone before you find yourself in a position that will cost you more money than taking it to a shop from the get go.

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No More Naysayers!!!!

Its been a while since my last post.  Life has gotten extremely busy, but I think my time management has finally kicked in where I can focus again.  Since last summer, we bought a house, moved, fixed up the house we bought, increased my hours at my second job, and have managed to be a dad and husband and keep our family healthy and happy.

There have been some repairs to both my Jeep and my wife’s vehicle, as well as repairs to my son’s pickup and his friend’s vehicle too, but in most of those, I wasn’t running the video camera, and kind of lost my perspective on why I had started posting these videos on youtube.

My original goal, was to show that anyone could learn how to repair and maintain their own vehicles, and some of the repairs I have done recently would have been perfect.  From replacing the Crank Shaft Position Sensor on my wife’s 1999 Intrigue, to replacing the wheel studs on the Kia of my son’s friend… they were all successful repairs, that would have shown that I had lost the intimidation of working on cars, and could not only keep things running, but make them run better.

So, a couple of weeks ago, after all the holiday fun, I found some time in my schedule to start working on my Jeep again.  Some of it was necessity, as I was having some issues with the breaks and the 4-wheel drive and we were really getting in to the heart of a northern Michigan winter.  But I took the time to start shooting video again, while I was making the repairs.  As soon as I started posting videos and talking to my mechanic friends again, about my plans for the Jeep, the naysayers started swarming.

I do not understand people like that.  I do understand a couple of my mechanic friends, warning me about things I might find as I dig deeper in to some of the rust issues, but a “heads up” is not like most of the other comments.  “You really should just scrap that thing”   “It’s not worth putting any effort into that”  “Just find a different Jeep that doesn’t need so much work”  and on and on….

I have explained to these people before, and I just did it again, that I am not fixing up this Jeep as an investment.  I know I will ultimately put more money in to it than I will ever receive, should I decide to sell it… but isn’t every vehicle like that?  How much does your brand new car depreciate the second you drive it off the car dealer’s lot?  Very VERY few cars can be looked at as true investments.  Car flippers have an eye and a knack for getting vehicles cheap and flipping them for a profit… Collectors have an eye and the patience to turn certain antique and collectable cars into money making investments… but for most of us, a car is a means of transportation that gets us from point A to point B at a cost.

If you average out the money I have put into the Jeep… I just ordered new leaf springs and everything I would need to replace those, so my monthly average has probably gone up a little, but I’d still say I’ve put less than $120 a month into this Vehicle.  Some months are a lot higher but most months are $0.00 (Besides gas, oil… the general maintenance stuff that you need to do for any vehicle, new or old) .   It runs strong, gets me through the snow, and I know when I turn that key, even though its a 19 year old vehicle, its going to start and get me where I want to go.  Not to shabby for $120 a month.

I have tried to explain to these people, I am not building a rocket that has to take me to the moon and back….  Beside general repairs, the only other major issue is the rust…. and that is simply cutting out the old, rotted, and rusty metal, and welding in new… not rocket science!  Its messy, a lot of work, at times, and sometimes makes me question why I wanted to do this, but after I complete each task, I feel such a sense of accomplishment.  I am no longer fixing this Jeep up because I want to own a quality Jeep… I am now fixing it up because I find joy and a sense of inner worth in doing all this work.

Sometimes it is very difficult.  The other night I was replacing break lines in 20-below temperatures, and believe I came very close to doing some real damage to myself after spending to many hours in those temperatures, but I did survive… only slightly worse for wear… and the breaks on my Jeep are working great.  Every time I come to a stop and feel that solid brake pedal under my foot, I can’t help but feel some pride in myself for yet another successful repair.

This weekend, I will be doing a little more rust repair, especially around the leaf spring mounts, so I know those are nice and solid for when the new springs arrive in a week or so, but I am really looking forward to it.  Its entirely possible that I will start removing the old rusted, rotting metal, and start kicking myself for trying to tackle such a project over a weekend… but even if its 100 times worse than I expect, it is still as simple as cut out old…. weld in new… and I will get it done.

So all you naysayers….  just stop!  Go forth with your beliefs that I’m nuts for doing this… that I can only fail… and whatever else you want to think…. but KEEP IT TO YOURSELF!  I am just tired of the negativity.  You know… I think life, in general, would be a lot better for everyone if we all quit listening to the naysayers.  Instead of letting people tell us what’s wrong and why we’ll never be able to fix it…  let’s just set goals and achieve them, come hell or high water.  Seems logical to me….  maybe that’s why it would never work.

Oh well… thanks for taking the time read this.  More exciting videos are on the way!

The evolution of the Back yard mechanic

As I continue working on my Jeep, I noticed something this weekend. 

My new years resolution was to start working on my own vehicles this year.  I took auto shop in high school, and have a pretty good understanding of how vehicles work, but for some reason, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more and more intimidated by them.  Not driving them, but working on them.  So, I made that resolution, determined to stop letting vehicle get the better of me.  I was tired of taking my vehicles in to a shop, paying outrageous amounts, and still living with the same intimidation.  So I made that resolution.

This weekend, as I was continuing on replacing the rusted out floor pans on the Cherokee, I had, what I would call, an epiphany.  The transmission bell housing on the drivers side was completely rusted and needed to be replaced.

You can check  out the video here: VIDEO

One of the things I had to do, was first, figure out how I was going to remove the rusted nuts that were holding on the body bracket from the transfer case.  The bolts were so rusted that they were disintegrating and it was impossible to fit a socket or wrench on them,  I ended up having to cut them, and then I had to figure out how to reattach the bracket to the new metal on the bell housing.

A short six months ago, I would have been to intimidated to try making this repair.  It would have been so overwhelming that I would have just left it alone, ignoring it, hoping that the vehicle just lasted until I was ready to sell it.

After trying to make at least one repair each weekend, I noticed that I jumped right in to this repair with no fear.  My only concern was finding the solution to how to mount it.  It took me some time to figure out how to incorporate some homemade rubber washers, but in the end, I solved the problem and completed the repair.

It didn’t hit me until I was doing the wrap-up for the video, that I was not intimidated by this repair.

I take this as a good sign.  I think it is a sign that I have turned a corner and will not let vehicle repairs intimidate me any longer.  Its one of the milestones that I really didn’t expect to make it to.  I figured, even though I decided that I was determined to do the repairs, I would still have to hold the fear and intimidation in check.  This shows, I think, that I have made some pretty good strides over these past few months.

So for all the other wanna be back yard mechanics, I can only keep encouraging you to keep turning those wrenches and don’t let the fear stop you from trying the repair.  Sure, you may end up having to take it to a shop anyways… but you might just surprise yourself, complete the repair, and save yourself boat loads of money.

Please check out my Youtube videos, and subscribe to my Youtube channel, if you’d like to follow along as I continue the repairs.

 

All the best,

Jason

Aside

The Beginning

This project started in late January, when I decided it was time to park my Honda Civic for the rest of the winter.  After a long search, I found a 4×4 I could afford, and it happened to be a Jeep, which I have always wanted to own.

It was 15 below the night my wife and I went to look at this Jeep.  It was a two hour drive, and by the time we got there, I was tired, cranky, my flash light was crapping out, and I was just praying this vehicle would be worth the $1000 I had brought with me.

It was so cold, I really didn’t crawl up underneath it as far as I should have.  I saw where there was rust.  I saw where the floor was rotted or missing and where the previous owner had tried to patch the floor by screwing in some thin metal panels.  The engine, where as I was told it was rebuilt 15,000 miles ago, I’m pretty sure it was just replaced with a junk yard engine.  There are to many oil leaks for it to have been rebuilt by a professional shop (which is what I was told).  It ran very smooth, though, and the 4.0 straight 6 is the ultimate workhorse of an engine and with proper care can last 300,000 miles or more, so I wasn’t to worried about it.

What I didn’t see, since I didn’t crawl underneath it very far, was how the rust had climbed up the bell housing and how the floor wasn’t just rotted, but missing on the entire driver’s side.  The frame rails, where I checked them, were solid, but I missed some of the areas where they were starting to rot.  The driver seat brackets rotted out, and I fear the leaf spring mounts might be rotted out, as well.

My goal in all of this, is two fold.  One: I would like to fix this vehicle up so that I can airbrush it and use it as a traveling billboard for my airbrushing business.

Two: so many people have told me that this Jeep is a lost cause, that I am more determined than ever to succeed with fixing it.  Professional mechanics have told me that the rust makes this Jeep un-salvagable. Here’s the thing, though… I am fixing it, and I’m fixing it for cheap!  I am doing all of the work myself, and using as much scrap and salvaged parts as I can get my hands on.  In fact, I’m a couple of months in to the repairs, have fixed the floors in the entire front, as well as put on a new custom built rear bumper, and done a few other repairs, and I don’t think I’ve spent more than a couple hundred bucks on it.  If I can do it, with my limited mechanical skills, then I really think anyone can do it, and I hope to give people the motivation to work on their own cars and save themselves a lot of money.

So, please visit my youtube channel

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUcYlGIMCLnUd8pWopDeb9w

and “like” and share the videos, and please subscribe, so you can see all of the new videos.  I try to post at least one video every week.

Thanks, and stay tuned for some of the funny and interesting stories from my Jeep repair challenge.