Wednesday, October 21, 2015

She's back from the mechanic ... good news and bad news.

Well, mixed feelings here.  I put her in the shop back after Memorial Day in May ... with a list of what I wanted done to her.  I got her back last Wednesday, in October.  In his defense, my mechanic did ask if I was in a hurry to get her fixed and I told him no. 

Still ... four and a half months?!

When I got her back my mechanic had fixed the oil leak (bad oil pressure sending unit leaking down onto the exhaust) and tracked down the C68 climate control system problem where the air flow only exited the defroster vents ... it's a bad AC Programmer Module ... part number 16140190.  

Guess what?  

The part that I need to get my AC working is a one year only part, specific to the 1991 Corvette, incompatible with previous or later model years, discontinued long ago, no OEM stock left anywhere and the part itself is now rarer than an a full set of teeth in a meth house.

Thank you GM and Chevrolet for building such quality products.

The only hope to get the AC working again correctly is to find a replacement or rebuild this controller module.  I've priced them from Ebay to salvage yards (they get testy if you call them "junk yards") and some of them go for upwards of $600 rebuilt.  I did find a site which rebuilds these units for $189 with a 7 day turnaround.


Thinking that everything had been fixed except the AC controller, I told my mechanic that I'd just take the Vette back and get the module rebuilt myself since my source for rebuilding the controller was cheaper than his source and putting the controller back into the guts of the Vette was just a couple of screws and an electrical connection ... plus I really, really just wanted my Vette back again.

I missed that growl of the L98.

I missed having just one other seat beside me and I've been itching to drive MY Vette again.  I didn't really get to drive it very much before I put it in the shop and the only reason I put it in the shop was because I could get all of the work it needed done at once and because I was still recovering from my wreck and not able to swing wrenches like I used to.  Since (I assumed that) everything was done but the AC control module I could drive the Vette for a week or so with the windows down and top off ... like I usually do anyway.  It's getting cool enough now that I really don't need the AC but it won't be long before I'll need the heater.

So ... I got the Vette back ... with most of the dash disassembled and just laying loose in the passenger seat and passenger floor board and enough dust on the exterior and windows to qualify it as a recently discovered barn find.  The oil and oil filter got changed, the oil pressure sending unit got changed, the oil leak stopped ... and nothing else got done.



So ... now I've got to get her tuned up, get all the filters changed from front to back, service the transmission, change the serpentine belt tensioner and the serpentine belt itself.  I think I'm going to find a new mechanic for my Vette ... got two local garages lined up that want to give it a try so I'll let them handle anything that comes up in the future.  My current mechanic is good on stuff like my wife's '03 Grand Marquis and my old '86 TA but the Vette's obviously given him some problems.

This is how I got her back.  All the trim panels were removed from the center section of the driver's pod and just put in the rear cargo area.  Yeah, the gear selector "bar" isn't working on the shift indicator.  Maybe it's just not hooked up, maybe it's broken.  I'm going to see if I can fix it Saturday.  The C68 system controller is just stuck in the dash, not even secured.  It slides around when you're driving.  I think the trim screws are in the center console.  Several were on the floor.

Passenger side under dash ... wires and cables just hanging out.  Loyd's mat with weather cover.  The driver's side clear cover was wadded up under the driver's side dash.  I'm having to put weight on it to flatten it out.  How did that happen?

Driver's side under dash.  That big blue connector is for the C68 AC Programmer module.  I'm just going to tuck everything up under the dash and put the panels back on until I get the control module back.

Anyway.  It's been a while since I had my last '91 C4 and I've forgotten some of the quirks of owning these cars ... like the VATS.  I washed all the dust off of my Vette, filled her up with 93 Non Ethanol high octane, took the top off, windows down and cruised the long way around Columbia.  I blew the soot out of her a few times and just had a really good time getting reacquainted with the old girl.  I stopped by the hospital and hit the walking track for a workout session then went inside to see my supervisor.  He saw that my Vette was back and wanted to see it so we walked back outside and I showed him the '91.

Yeah.  I am.  Have to be with the kind of life that I have.

Back in her favorite spot at the ER.

Profile shot ... cleaned up.  I think the '91 was the best year of the L98 powered C4s ... last year as well so it took Chevy seven years to get it right.  After that, the LT1 was just ... bad.  Opti-Spark itself is something that will probably prevent me from ever owning an LT1 powered anything.  As for the '91, you got L98 power with the '90 interior makeover and the '91 restyling of the exterior plus the new sawblade wheels and a lot of equipment that was optional in the past few years was now standard equipment on the '91.  I miss the quicker ratio steering ... this thing can be a beast to one handed drive at low speed in a parking lot.

I reached inside, put the keys in the ignition and cranked her up.

She growled.

I reached under the dash, popped the clamshell hood, lifted it and ... the engine died.


I tried to crank the Vette again and she wouldn't crank.  She'd turn over and over and over but never catch fire.  Basic recipe of internal combustion ... you need fuel, air and spark.  I was getting air ... probably spark ... but ... I turned the key off and back on.  I didn't hear the fuel pump pressurize.


I get her back from the shop and the 24 year old fuel pump gives up the ghost in the parking lot of my hospital.

I was tired.

I was beat.

I put the top on, put the windows up, locked the Vette and went to Wendy's with my family.  Just another problem to solve later.  Changing a fuel pump on a C4 isn't hard ... it's just time consuming and fortunately you can do it standing up at the rear of the car ... unlike the '86 TA which requires you to drop the rear differential, drop the gas tank and put the fuel pump in through the top of the gas tank.

I went home, looked up some reasons why the fuel pump would suddenly die, some solutions, priced a fuel pump just for kicks and went to sleep.  The next day at work was a long day, thoughts of the Vette, of having to work on her in the parking lot of my hospital made it even longer ... Finally, I got back to her around 7:30 PM that night.  It was dark.  I had my code scanner and some spare fuses, hoping, praying that it was just a blown fuel pump fuse or, failing that, I could pull some code that would tell me more about what happened.

Why can't it just be something simple?  

Just once?

On a whim, I opened the '91, stuck the key in the ignition, cranked her and ... she growled to life ... and didn't quit.

There was a brief period of "WTF?" followed by an equally brief period of "IT EFFING RUNS!" followed by a shallow laugh at myself when I realized what I'd done.  The fuel pump hadn't died ... I'd triggered the VATS which shut down the drive train to prevent the Vette from being stolen.

I hung my head and laughed softly ... man I must have been really tired to not have thought of that when it happened.

Last night, when I was showing my supervisor the Vette, I'd forgotten that I'd locked the door when I shut it ... muscle memory and old habit.  Locking the door, even with the windows down and the top off, activates the Vette's factory security system (and it's a pretty good system, considering).  When I reached in and cranked the Vette without opening the door with the key, VATS kicked in and when I reached in the Vette, again without opening the door with the key, and popped the hood VATS killed the engine and shut down the whole car.  If I had just waited 20 minutes the Vette would have reset and everything would have been fine.  If I had just come back from Wendy's and tried the Vette again I could have driven her home.

Instead I left her all night at the ER and worried about something that wasn't.

Lesson learned.

Rule out the simple stuff first.

I'm still getting used to this Vette ... again.

Silly, stupid mistake but one you can laugh at because all it cost me was a little embarrassment and some time.

So, I took the Vette home, parked it, went to bed, got up, threw all of my gear in the Vette and took it to Hattiesburg to work.  She did fine all the way to lunch and then after lunch she started idling rough, surging, almost dying several times and it felt like she was running on six cylinders sometime rather than eight.


No codes are getting thrown up on the dash but she definitely is down on power and feeling rough.  I'm guessing it's time to change the fuel filter (which was on the list of things to be done but didn't get done) and throw some fresh plugs into her this Saturday.  It feels like maybe I fouled a couple of plugs.  While I'm at it, I might just replace the distributor cap and rotor.  Maybe I just got some trash sucked into the fuel system and it will eventually work its way out in daily driving tomorrow.

Fingers crossed but if not then I'm looking forward to spending some quality time swinging wrenches on her Saturday morning, just getting reacquainted with the old girl and getting used to all of her quirks and idiosyncrasies all over again after the long absence.