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04.02.02 - 12:12 p.m.

my brother's van broke down. this is his story. (background: for some reason, he lives in dallas, tx)

From : "Aj"
Subject : Things I learned as a result of my exploding van problem
Date : Mon, 1 Apr 2002 16:24:58 -0000

For those of you joining us in the middle of the story:

* On Friday, I left work early to head out to Ben Amis' grandfather's ranch in order to engage in productive and wholesome recreation (mending fences, fishing, shooting birdhouses, that sort of thing)

* Ben's grandfather lives approximately 70 miles north of Downtown Dallas (aka "Oklahoma"), about 5 miles northeast of the intersection of Route 289 and rural road 134.

* I took the tollway up, which was entertaining because Fletch broke my van's window about six months ago (it won't open anymore), so at each tollbooth I had to open the door to pay the toll. Which of course terrified the poor toll-both workers, who would back away and point at the "STAY IN YOUR VEHICLE" signs that were posted.

* My van is a piece of shit.

* At mile 60 or so, at the intersection of Route 289 and rural road 100, my van made a series of crunchy noises and died horribly. While the engine did not actually fall out, it certainly wanted to.

* Naturally, it stopped directly across road 100 (a one-lane gravel road with ditches on either side). When it wouldn't turn over, I got out and pushed it into the ditch to allow pickup trucks to pass and called Triple A.

* AAA texas is staffed entirely by morons. After asking six times for a landmark near where I broke down, the finally accepted the fact that I was surrounded by miles of prairie with nothing -- no houses, no stoplights, no nothing.

* The then proceeded to call me every 20 minutes with incorrect information about when my tow truck would be there.

* A this point, Ben, Chris, Adam, Matt, and Jesse showed up. Since we had nothing else to do but wait for the truck, they passed the time by alternately hurling rocks at signs & my van and begging me to let them take the van up to the ranch and shoot it. I would have let them, except a) it had a full tank of gas and b)it wouldn't be right to blow up the van without Chuck & Fletch present.

* Eventually the tow truck got there and towed me to the mechanic in Celina, TX (population: 625).

* Note I said "the mechanic," not "a mechanic." There's only one and his address on his business card is "under the water tower." I'm quite serious.

* The mechanic closed for the weekend 5 minutes after I got there.

* After finding my way back home 60 miles away, I spoke with the mechanic on the phone this morning. Bubba thinks he may be able to fix it for $300 but there's no guarantees. When pressed for specifics he became slightly evasive. However, I checked with my local chop-shop (if I haven't told you about my chop shop, ask sometime. It's the greatest illegal automotive repair facility on earth, and it's a whole different story) and they think the price is fair.

* This is good, because my plan was to simply abandon the van in Celina if the price was over $300. Mechanic's lein my ass.

* I also realized that the blue-book value of the van is $400. If I strip out factory new parts (that I've either bought & added myself or had done recently), the value of the parts alone is $600. The van is worth less than its guts.

* Apparently, you should change your timing belt before it breaks. If the teeth strip off the belt, it will still be under tension and will look okay but your car still won't start since it has no grip.

* As I also learned, foreign-made engines, engines with very high compression, and most modern cars have interference engines which means the piston encroaches on the space that the valve is in during the compression stroke. So if your timing belt breaks your engine with be banged all to hell and you will have to go buy a new car.

* Old domstic piece of shit vans, on the other hand, have free-cylcing engines which means the inept designers were unable to make an interference engine back in 1988. The upshot is that when the timing belt breaks, some guy named Bubba under the water tower gets to charge you $300 but your valves probably aren't bent and the engine is probably still okay.

* So at some point I get to make the trek back out to lovely Celina to get the van. Since I'll be there anyway, I'm thinking of going back to Tioga, TX (about 30 miles away from Celina), where they have the best BBQ joint ever.

Cheers, Aj

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