Suck, squeeze, bang, and blow: the four steps required to power a 4-stroke engine. Mike Ott of the Mendocino Alcohol Fuel Group uses this moniker to make the mysteries of internal combustion engines easier to visualize. Intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust is the way Takashi Yogi, our resident Industrial Arts master, would teach it. Having two instructors covering the basics is helpful as each description is uniquely heard by each student, plus it takes a few times hearing about a flywheel to really let it sink in!
So far I have built the confidence and skills to not only replace my brake pads but replace the calipers as well on my F150. Next the U-joint holding the drive train in place had become so worn, the bearings dissolved into a gooey mess. With Takashi’s help and a 4 foot steel bar to increase my torque, I wrenched the old U-joint off and installed a new one. The concept of replacing a part is a pretty simple one when you see a diagram or picture online. The hard part is when you are working with a machine that is decades old and rusted, and you need to know how hard you can pull, push, squeeze, hammer, smack, or wiggle before you break it. I learned tricks from Takashi that will save me hours of frustration. I used a propane torch to expand metal in order to release a stuck bolt when the torque wrenches, vice clamps and penetrating oils don’t work. These tips and tricks give me much more confidence in my abilities as an amateur mechanic.
Maybe too much confidence. Today I made a trade for two 1984 Dodge Ram 50s, one for parts and one to fix up. This is a truck that claims to get 35 mpg with a 4 cylinder diesel engine, and I think it should be a great beginner overhaul. I hope to get one of these trucks running as my commuter vehicle, and unlock the mysteries of my automobile from the inside out. Wish me luck!