Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Hot Steamy Night, But No Fun!

The week before the Ephrata match I had driven my Honda Civic to Yakima hoping to save a bit of gasoline, and to stay at my friend Larry's place. The plan was to drive over to Yakima on Friday, help set up the match, staying at Larry's for Friday night, shoot the match on Saturday, and comfortably drive home Saturday night after the match. The only part of that entire weekend that went according to plan was shooting the match.

The Honda blew a radiator hose near the summit of Snoqualmie Pass, and I was just barely able to limp off the freeway to perform repairs and refill water. the radiator hose had split right near one end, so I was able to trim off the end of the hose push it farther on and re tighten the hose clamp. after refilling the water, I got back on the road. It was still running a little warm, so I stopped again and made sure the water was completely full. Even so, it still was running a little bit too hot. By now I was more than halfway to my destination, so the plan was to press on as best I could, and perform what ever additional repairs were necessary once I got to Larry's place. The engine continued to run on the hot side, but it seemed to be working well enough that if I drove it carefully I should be able to reach Larry's. Unfortunately, it did not work that way. There were three more passes to cross, and it was well over 90°. At the top of the third pass, perhaps 15 miles from Larry's place, it sounded like a hand grenade exploded under the hood. The explosion was strong enough that I was able to see the hood bow upwards from the concussion. The upper radiator hose had exploded totally. I telephoned Larry, and he stopped at an auto parts store and picked up new coolant hoses for every close listed in the book. By the time Larry arrived the engine had cooled off, and I changed the exploded hose and also one other hose that looked suspicious. I filled it up with water one more time, and limped the rest of the way to Larry's. It was still running too hot. I parked the Honda at Larry's, and we rode out to the range and got everything set up for the next mornings match.

Saturday morning I rode with Larry to the match, shot the match, and had a grand time. On the way home from the match we stopped at the auto parts store and I purchased a new thermostat. If the thermostat was sticking, that could possibly be causing my overheating problems. The thermostat on the Honda Civic in 1987 is not very easy to get to, and it took a couple of hours to get it changed. Once again we filled it up with water, and I drove it for about 15 miles to test it, and it did not seem to overheat at all. I decided to roll the dice, and head for home. I was able to cross the first three passes in the near 100° weather with no problem. As I approached the east side of Snoqualmie Pass, the temperature needle slowly started to climb.

 I figured if I drove it carefully and could get across the pass to Western Washington it would be much cooler and probably raining so I should be able to limp my way home. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Even before I reached the summit it was obvious that I still had a serious overheating problem. I stopped for about an hour and let it cool off. I refilled the water yet again, and got back on the road, only to go a few miles before it started to overheat again. It seemed that the water was disappearing, causing the overheating. However, I could not find where the water was going to. The engine was idling smoothly, was not showing any steam out the exhaust, and did not appear to have any leaks in the cooling system anywhere. Yet, the water was disappearing.

I continued this pattern of letting it cool off, refilling the water, and limping on for a few more miles, several times. Each time that I stopped I would open the hood and further examine the engine trying to find where the coolant was going. By the time I reached North Bend, it was nearly 1 AM. I disconnected the heater hose from the heater and routed it directly back onto the engine block, bypassing any possibility of leakage in the heating system. This did not help either.

I limped on a few more miles to the next exit, which was the town of Snoqualmie. I pulled into a parking lot that had bright lights, and continued trying to find where the coolant was going to. This time, I got a bit lucky ! When I opened the hood I saw a very small puff of steam back behind the carburetor and under the intake manifold next to the firewall. I disconnected the air filter and removed it and with a flashlight in my mouth was able to see a very small rubber hose in a nearly inaccessible location. The hose looked like a vacuum line and was no larger in diameter than a ballpoint pen. It had a very small pinhole on the backside of the hose near the firewall. As pressure would build in the cooling system it would spray out the coolant down and under the firewall. By the time I was able to get off the road and get the good open the pressure had dropped sufficiently that it was no longer squirting out that hole, and there was no way to tell that the leak was there.

 I was able to loosen the hose clamps and remove the tiny hose. Unfortunately, it was too short to be able to cut it off and slip it back on. I needed a longer hose to be able to get back on the road. Unfortunately also, I had no hose of that size nor was there any place open where I could buy a piece of hose for a replacement. Scrounging around through the Honda, the only thing that I could find was a Bic ballpoint pen. I cut off the hose, took the guts out of the ballpoint pen, and slipped it into the middle of the hose, making the hose now long enough to reach each end. The thin plastic of the ballpoint pen body would probably not contain any pressure once there was hot water going through it, so I very carefully wrapped wire around the outside of the ballpoint pen body to reinforce it. I put the car back together with the new hose installed, refilled the water, and got back on the road. The engine had now been overheated so many times that the head gasket was now leaking and drawing water into one cylinder. When I fired up the motor I would disappear in a cloud of steam coming out of the exhaust. The steam cleared out in a minute or so, and everything seemed to be running just fine.

With the tiny hose patched, the Honda we cruise down the road without problem for 30 to 40 miles before enough water had been consumed by the cylinder and leaking head gasket that it would start to overheat. Even so, 30 to 40 miles between stops was way better than 2 miles between stops. Stopping every 30 or 40 miles for water I was able to drive all the way home. Since it was now three  in the morning the ferry system to Whidbey Island was now shut down for the night, so I had to drive an additional two hours to the north end of the island where there is a bridge.

When I finally arrived home it was 5 AM, and I had been on the road for approximately 13 hours. At least I was finally home where I have the resources to make whatever repairs are needed.therein lies yet another story, but not for this post!


At Thursday, August 22, 2013 4:33:00 AM, Blogger David aka True Blue Sam said...

That trip is one for the record books! I hope that changing out the head is easy on the Honda.


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