Vehicle Maintenance

The Liberian environment is tough on everything.  Incessant rains, salty ocean air, dust storms during dry season, assorted insects, mollusks, and other pests, fungi, molds, algae, and so on all take their toll on everything.  Even concrete degrades at an incredible pace.  Rust proof paint only buys you a season if you’re lucky.

It can be especially harsh on vehicles.  If you don’t open your car up at least once a week to get some air flowing through, impressive mold grows on the inside surfaces.  If I want a fuzzy steering wheel, I’ll buy a cover, thank you very much.

We’ve had a several-months-long saga with our car stalling out on us.  At first, it would happen occasionally, then clear up on its own.  I did some research online, and found that the idle air control valve on Honda Pilots is often somewhat wonky, and can cause the stalling we experienced.  So, I waited for the part to come.  Once it did, it took several hours to get to the thing, which is underneath the throttle body.  Brilliant.  In the process, I stripped out a bolt or two and the screws holding it on the throttle body, and still couldn’t get the darned thing off.  I ordered appropriate-sized replacement bolts and screws, and changed it out.

Did it work?  Nope.  Still stalling.  In fact, things got progressively worse.  More research indicated that it might probably be the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valve that was going bad.  The smell of sulfur when the car stalled should have been my main clue, but it wasn’t noticeable each time.  Still, since we can’t get the car up to highway speeds in town (or out of town, for that matter, unless I want to throw the shocks), it seemed to fit.  Figures, since the thing is actually really easy to get to–no gymnastics or nested removals required.  Sure enough, the EGR valve was gunked up.  I tried to clean it, but lacking appropriate cleaner, it was only partially successful.  So, we waited for a new EGR valve.  Once it came, I spent about 45 minutes putting it in.  Since then, the car has been back to normal.  If it starts stalling again, then my next guess is that a rodent has gotten to some wiring in the manifold (which, apparently, is fairly common and causes this sort of issue).  I hope not, because I think that dismantling the manifold might be a little beyond my pre-novice level of expertise.

Part of how we’re able to let the car be so unreliable for so long is that I bike commute nearly every day.  Of course, that takes its own toll on the vehicle.  I’m due for a new chain (it’s been about 4 months…) and for the longest time my shifting has been unresponsive.  The pulley wheels on the rear derailleur have needed replaced for quite a while, and I just now got around to it.  Do yourself a favor and replace them before they look like this:DSC09935 DSC09936 DSC09937

It’s actually a quick, 10 minute job.  Now that I changed them, shifting is much better.  My working hypothesis is that the pulleys had gotten so worn that the chain was, in effect, too long.  That and the pulleys were no longer effectively keeping the chain moving smoothly through the derailleur cage.

Now for a new chain on my primary mode of transportation, and an oil change for the secondary.