Tuesday, April 17, 2012

On the Road Again!

Ruby the Vanagon was garaged back in January after the clutch slave cylinder failed, and like sad Volkswagen tears, hydraulic fluid wept from the engine. Our final drive home through sections of stop-and-go city traffic was a struggle, as I could only muscle the van into second and fourth gears, and finally, no gears. Once home, Ruby sat abandoned for three months while my time was occupied with other pressing responsibilities, our now 4-month-old son, among them.

I finally reached the point when I simply could not stand the site or thought of that disabled beauty any longer. Taking advantage of our AAA membership, we had our beloved vanagon towed to the experts at Greg's Repair Service in Natick, MA.

Greg always gives his vans a bumper-to-bumper exam upon arrival, and not surprisingly, he brought some other issues to our attention. The good news is that I had diagnosed the clutch problem correctly, and the slave cylinder is fortunately a much cheaper repair than an actual clutch replacement or, worse, a transmission problem. The bad news is that Greg discovered that our brake lines were rotted and the rear brakes were thoroughly trashed. We've never had any brake work done on the vanagon and we can only guess at how long those brakes were in use prior to the 13,000+ miles (up and down mountain passes) that we've put on the van. I certainly wasn't about to take any chances on brakes, especially with the addition of our newest road trip passenger, baby Jacob. We added new brake lines and a complete rear brake job to the to-do list.

Greg also discovered that the horn was no longer functioning. That's a job I'll tackle mylself, along with a cracked glass headlight assembly. I'll search around theSamba for a replacement. Lastly, he commented on our loud, rattling exhaust, which could be much improved with new "Y-pipe" gaskets and hangers. We added the exhaust work to the repair list too.

In the end, a relatively cheap and simple visit to the mechanic ballooned into something rather costly, but there was nothing frivolous about these repairs. Ruby the Vanagon is now running extremely wellmuch quieter, smoother, and most importantly, safer than ever before. Adventures await.

This weekend, Ruby and I are driving north to the Inferno Race at Mount Washington's Tuckerman Ravine. Hopefully we'll enjoy better weather than last year, when my good friend, John, and I were members of a five-person Inferno race team on an unseasonably cold and icy April day. This year, John is making his first solo bid at the grueling pentathlon and I'll be providing race support during the running, kayaking, biking, hiking, and skiing portions, before I enjoy my own turns in the bowl. Good luck, John!

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