Friday, March 17, 2017

Sometimes you just have to do the work. Where have I heard this before?

photo credit: steam

Just getting started can be the hardest part. I have posted that I had obtained a replacement transmission for my XJS last Summer. I had been putting off the job, I had things to do with my other cars. Last weekend I was going to switch spots with the Mustang which is parked at the curb, to finish the front end work. After I fired up the Jag, I found that the trans had completely given up the ghost.

I figured that now was the time. Besides, it isn't easy pushing two tons of dead Jaguar back up my downsloping driveway.

Putting the ramps under the rear wheels wasn't the best idea, I forgot I had to be able to rotate the wheels to remove the driveshaft. Back to jack stands.

I already have most of the handtools that I need to do the job. I bought an eight foot 10"x 2"  Douglas Fir board at Home Depot and had them cut it into one foot lengths. I can put those under the stands to gain some more height. Last Summer I bought a new low profile floorjack that eliminates the hassle of my old worn floor jack. Still this jack has it's uses which I'll share later. I bought some metal ramps. They only lift the car about eight inches. I picked up an engine support bar and a new transmission jack also. I bought all these things at Harbor Freight tools. Obviously, I don't get paid to endorse their products, but I know that a lot of guys buy their tools at HF. Some of their stuff is pretty good some is junk, but at least it's cheap and available. Most of it is good enough for the hobbyist but wouldn't hold up to professional use. Sometimes I wonder if their stuff is really all that low priced. I kind of wonder about their stated "compare at" price.  I do try to look at other vendors on the internet looking for comps, but I don't want to waste all my time on research. Besides there are always sales going on or coupons you can use.

Only the finest equipment is used. My new floor jack is on the right.
Having the right equipment makes all the difference.

If I need a particularly good quality tool I'll get a Craftsman tool from Sears. I needed a good fitting set of tube  wrenches since my HF set seemed a little loose. I didn't want to take a chance on damaging the trans cooler line fittings. These were some beautiful tools. Well made, heavy, polished with a mirror like chrome finish. They cost me forty bucks but are worth it. Yes, they are made in China. There is quality stuff from there.

I think that an automatic transmission removal is probably the worst job  that a guy can do at home. Unless you have a four post lift and the related equipment. The car has to go in the air, high enough to get under it and have enough room to be able to remove the transmission and jack.  Also most of the work has to be done under the middle of the car, on your back. Most other jobs are done around the outside of the car or under just the front and rear, much easier. This also introduces an element of real danger into the process, if the car should fall off the stands somehow, and you are underneath, things will become very unpleasant very rapidly! Generally the car has to be lifted much higher than can be accommodated by the usual jackstands. Wooden squares can be placed under the jackstands to gain additional height.  I put my tallest stand under the front crossmemember as an extra precaution. I will also use my floorjacks under the car while I am actually in the process of working on the removal.

Some wooden blocks under the diff, just in case.

Working on your back is probably the worst thing you can imagine, Just crawling under the car can be tough on the old back and knees. Sometimes you have to crane your neck to see up into the chassis and oftentimes dirt, oil, or other debris will fall into your face. I've definitely learned my lesson and wear eye protection.

So why am I doing this? Well, the job has to be done.  I had been quoted a range of prices for the work, anywhere from two to three thousand dollars. I don't have that kind of money to spend on what is a still a 1,200 dollar car. Even worse it seems that many mechanics start to salivate when they hear the name Jaguar linked with the word repair. While it is true that new Jags are bought by people of ample income, old Jags are bought by poor guys like me. Spend some time on the forums and you will get the idea that many owners have been taken to the cleaners by opportunistic repair shops.

Probably the biggest reason that I'm doing this is because it's what I do, or have done, for a very long time. There's no way that I can afford to have any hobby cars unless I take care of them myself. I really can't afford to have a shop do all the work. Maybe some, but not all. And for some reason I've convinced myself that if I can't do the work than I shouldn't have the car. As I've mentioned before it's getting harder for me to do the physical side of this activity. So at least I could cut back on the number of cars that I'm dealing with. I used to dream about having a house with a couple of acres where I could have a nice shop and space to house a little collection of cars. Reality has settled in and I think that fewer cars are in my future-at least owning them at the same time.

Since the car is in my garage I have the luxury of taking my time. At least my neighbors don't have to watch me crawling around under my car in my driveway. It also allows me to work out of the weather, which has been awful wet lately. My back was bothering me quite a bit last month after dealing with my Mustang's suspension and that gave me a good excuse to drag my feet. Weeks went by before I felt good enough to resume work. It is always something.

Adding a drainplug makes changing the fluid a routine event.

I have prepared the replacement transmission by changing the filter and installing a drain plug in the pan. The tranny was amazingly clean inside, I don't think that there are many miles on it. I decided to change the front pump seal as it is easily done at this time. My plan is that as the original trans comes out, the replacement will be installed immediately in it's place. It makes sense as everything is already in position, but does anything ever work out as planned?

On the other hand finishing up the work on my Mustang was almost a pleasure. First I had to jump start the car, then placed it on the battery tender while I did the rest of the work. I just had to replace the tie rod ends and steering rack boots. The biggest problem was how to support the car when I removed the wheels. I have two sets of jackstands but I'm using both on the XJS. I had considered buying a new set, but figured I didn't want to spend the money. So I jacked up the car and supported it with my big wooden block, then used a ramp under the opposite wheel. When I finished up the left side I put a ramp under the wheel, then jacked up and supported the right side. After I was finished I put the ramp back under the right wheel. Since it now had both ramps under the wheels I decided to drive the car down the ramps. It worked out pretty good. I think these will be useful for oil changes.

I tried to be as careful as I could, trying to replace the tie rod ends in the identical position. I was somewhat successful as the steering didn't pull to one side but the steering wheel isn't centered  properly. I will have take it in and get the alignment redone. I've still got to replace the rotor shield that got mangled up.

The steering is now nice, quiet and smooth,and returns after turning a corner. Best of all no more pulling upon braking. I had to wash several months of dirt, bird crap, those horrible little leaves, and general filth off the car after the deluge we had these last few months. Now that the car is fixed and clean, it's time to drive it for awhile.

Yes, I had planned to sell  it but now I'm going to wait a bit. This has been a good car. I've had it for almost five years. It has been reliable because I made the decision to make a commitment to it, and do the necessary repairs.  It's at the point where it's not worth a whole lot of money, but it is worth a lot to me. It's an easy to maintain, no drama machine. I think I'll hold onto it until I decide how I feel about the XJS. (If I ever get that car on the road!) I could do worse.

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