While searching for parts for Flash (the TDI Jetta recently wrecked by T), I found a perfect parts candidate. Or is it more? The one on Craigslist was a year younger, but had 192k miles on it. A gasser with a 2-dot-slow engine, it was the GLS model with a tan leather interior and a bruise-free white exterior. The biggest drawback: the owner believed he had blown the engine, and had left it untouched since mid-February. Today's posting is the adventure we had with this listing / car. Found on Thursday, I wanted to get there right away, which meant driving up the next day.
Oregon -to- Washington Friday Afternoon Traffic
First things first, the parts-car-candidate was living on the far North East corner of Vancouver, Washington. Since I live in central Beaverton, that represented a 40 minute drive without traffic. On Friday afternoon in the Summer, it can take considerably more time. Like almost 3 hours one-way. Fortunately, I drove Dude (2000 +/- Saturn) and his A/C was working fine. Still, 3 hours of bumper-to-bumper rubber-banding traffic is hard on a clutch leg. When I got there, the owner's wife had chosen to happy-hour with her friends, so the owner wasn't really able to focus attention on what we were doing as he had to manage little kids. Turns out, she hadn't signed the title so it didn't matter if he wanted to do the deal or not; he couldn't. So, after agreeing I wanted it and that he'd hold it for the weekend, I set back home into the reducing rush-hour traffic.
Haul it Home, Eventually
I got up the next morning (Saturday) and called AAA to see if I could get a tow from Vancouver. After I was assured that the wait time would be around 30 minutes, and to call back when I was with the victim, I set off back to Vancouver. Unlike the afternoon before, the drive this time took 40 minutes, even with a detour down Columbia Blvd. to avoid a 2-lane wreck just south of the Interstate Bridge. I re-contacted AAA at the car and was given a 45 minute expectation. Perfect. The owner and I exchanged pleasantries, money and forms, then pushed the car into the street. I climbed into Dude to wait for the tow truck. And wait. And wait. After an hour, I contacted AAA to see what was going on. and I was given a revised time of another 75 minutes. Crap. The alternative: hire another tow company and hope AAA would reimburse it. By the time the tow truck arrived, I had sat in front of the old owner's house for 3 hours. I gave the tow guy directions, explained my need for food, and we set off separately.
I only stopped for about 15 minutes to eat, but that was enough of a head start for the tow truck to get to my house, drop the car and leave. Boo was there to catch it, fortunately. She and I pushed 2dot0 into the garage so I could consider it's engine's health.
The prior owner had told the tale of how the car had fallen into its current state. It seems that the early February snow storm I mentioned in Front Bumper (part 2) played a major part in 2dot0's demise. He had driven to the community college for class and had been wrestling for traction in the snow when a large white cloud of smoke came out from under the hood. He quickly wheeled into a parking spot and killed the engine. He figured the engine was seized and had the car towed home after the snow cleared. Because of the weather, getting that tow was a long wait; way worse than mine. He was unable to get the engine to hold water, so he gave up on it, bought a different car and listed it to make room in his driveway.
That's where we come in on Sunday. I did the same thing he had been doing: pour a little tap water into the overflow bottle and see if/where it comes out: slightly behind the front driver's wheel. With a bare hand feeling for where dry meets wet, I was reminded of my diagnosing issues with the cooling leaks on Hapy. That was the moment I realized it was the same coolant flange which had stymied me with the bus for a year. Off to O'Reilly's Boo and I went to get a replacement flange and G12 coolant. On removal, we could see that the old flange had split at the collar almost halfway around the underside. I put on the new flange, topped off with tap-water to verify the leak, and presto! no leak. Now the real test: try turning it over. It started right up, but it blew lots of smoke. I feared a failing head putting oil into the combustion chamber. Still, we pulled 2dot0 out of the garage and I took a test drive around the neighborhood. It ran very well. Brakes grabbed a little bit, but the steering was sure. The engine had some pep (for a non-turbo 2.0) and the smoke went away.
On Monday, 2 days after having the car hauled home with a "blown engine", Boo and I went out to dinner in 2dot0. The following Friday (after getting insurance), I drained the water and filled the cooling system with G12 coolant and distilled water. Then, embraced more risk with a drive down the highway to the DEQ. We passed, though I hadn't filled the system entirely with coolant and the temp ran high on the way home. We didn't overheat, though, and we found a shade-tree under which I was able to top-off the system safely.
This past Friday, I ran the paperwork through DMV and got Oregon plates. Between DEQ, DMV and the parts at O'Reilly, I spent over half of what I spent on the car. For any other purchase, that would sound really bad, but this was a $500 car.
So, now we have another car in the stable. The question is, "what do we do with it?". With such a high-mile engine, top-end work is inevitable. Maybe bottom-end too. We decided that since it hadn't had the benefit of many miles of trust-building, it will be my 2-miles-to-work car when the weather turns rainy. T will continue to drive the dependable TDI (Flash), and we returned Joan (really large SUV) to Boo's ex-husband.
That's it for today. I'd heard of folks getting a really great deal on a car, but after buying and selling over 10 cars, I'd never had that kind of luck. Until now. The stories are real. Since I was looking for a parts car, getting a working car wasn't on the radar, but that's what I got. I'll post next time on how we resolved the parts we needed to get Flash looking better.