Sunday, January 17, 2016

Photos-of-the-Week #246 The Heart (Engine) Surgeons at One-Stop, Hawthorne, California, January 2015


One year ago at this time I was “stranded” in Hawthorne, California with My McVansion. It was a trying time. As you may recall, I was on my way from Clovis (Fresno), California where I spent Christmas and the changing of the year with my former mother-in-law, brother and sister-in-law, my nephews and niece and my son and my former wife, his mother.

It was a bit of a special time for me since it was the first time all of us had actually spent a Christmas together in 25 years. For me, that was a really nice Christmas present. Unfortunately, I didn't know what new “adventure” was awaiting me when I would leave Clovis on January 5, 2015.

I had just had the van hand-washed and an exterior detailing job done. It looked pretty. I had two new tires mounted on the rear of the van. I took off heading over the mountains from the central valley of the Golden State and as I was climbing to the Tejon Pass on I-5 heading to the LA area to visit my son at his place . . . My McVansion suffered a “heart attack.” Yes! The heart of my condo on wheels blew halfway up the mountain to the pass.

Fortunately, I could get the engine to run again. It was pretty noisy and had no power. I limped at an average of 10 to 15 mph over the mountain, through the San Fernando Valley and to the South Bay area, Hawthorne, to be precise, where my son lived. I drove on the shoulder of I-5. It was a very long and tedious drive, never knowing when and where the engine may completely die. But, I made it.

Here I was, about 2,800 miles from my familiar home territory and my mechanic of 25 years. But, then the greatest thing happened. I went on line searching for a place to look over the engine and determine the situation, and, of course, break the bad news I was expecting. I found a place in Hawthorne, only about two or three miles from my son's place, by the name of One-Stop Engine Rebuilding.

I called and I reached a gentleman by the name of Wilson. And a gentleman he was. We chatted by phone and he told me to bring the van over the next day for an “examination” and “diagnosis.” I did, and as I suspected, the news was not good. But, thankfully, all was not hopeless and My McVansion wasn't terminal.

I found a cracker jack, top drawer team of automotive engine technicians, all certified by the ASE. They were courteous, careful, knowledgeable and highly skilled with a reputation that preceded them. Wilson, the owner and leader of the team of “surgeons” couldn't have been a nicer person to work with. He was honest and always in control. He also had a wonderful personality and sense of humor.

Wilson's father had started in the engine rebuilding business in the '80's. Although he had suffered a stroke, he was still active in the business. Wilson also had a brother who worked with them. The rest of the team were terrific, too. I couldn't have asked for a nicer bunch of people to work with and handle this problem for me.

In the photo at the top of the article, Wilson is the second from the right. There are two other members of the team who are not pictured. They were not available when I took this photo.

They took the engine out of My McVansion, stripped it down, steam cleaned everything, replaced specific vital components with new ones, machined and made sure anything that could be re-installed was perfect. Here you see My McVansion's “heart” re-installed after being rebuilt into the next best thing to a new engine. They were terrific and allowed me back in the shop throughout the entire process to see everything they were doing. Even though I had studied automotive technology in the mid 1960's a lot had changed. They gave me a good understanding of the modern V8 engine and what makes it tick.

Once the engine was rebuilt and installed back in the van's “chest cavity,” it was a thing of beauty. It ran perfectly. Well, perfectly except for a problem with overheating exhaust manifolds. That presented a new can of worms. With a like new engine that ran like it had just come out of the engine factory, this wasn't right.

Wilson wouldn't release the van to me this way. He now realized that the demon that had caused the problem in the first place, was still dwelling somewhere in the engine or something connected to the engine. He also knew that if he released it to me, it wouldn't be very long before this demon would create the same conditions and the engine would blow again. Wilson, in his collaborative and communicative way explained, even though everything about the engine was running to factory specifications, my engine didn't display the typical reasons engines fail when they are brought to him.

He explained that most engines he receives and works on come with no oil in the crankcase or no coolant in the cooling system and sometimes both. My engine's coolant was perfect and so was my oil and the levels of both were to factory specifications. Whatever it was was, for him and his team, an anomaly. Here, again, is something I admire and am very happy about. Wilson refused to give up until he found the problem and resolved it.

Was this a huge inconvenience to me? It sure was. I ended up imposing on my son's hospitality for two months. But, my son was great and, frankly, we hadn't spent that much time together in almost 12 years. So, it was an unexpected gift/blessing for me. But, it was also a major inconvenience to Wilson and his team. He had limited space and bays to work on other customers' vehicles. Now, he had this one behemoth van taking up much needed space. Not to mention he hadn't charged me a dime, so far.

At long last, his perseverance paid off. He tried everything he and the team could think of. Then he finally consulted an automotive “neurosurgeon” who found this tiny gremlin hiding deep inside one of the engine systems. The system was replaced and, viola, EVERYTHING was perfect finally. He road tested it and then had me road test it for a few days. Happy! Happy! Happy! Finally, the van was no longer blocking his space.

He presented me with the final costs and, as I stated in the beginning, Wilson is a gentleman and honest. The bill was exactly as he said it would be. He added nothing on for all the extra time he and his team had to continue working on it. The only thing he added on was the cost of the automotive “neurosurgeon's” services finding and fixing the elusive gremlin.

So, if you're ever in the LA area and have engine problems with your vehicle – van, car, pick-up, SUV (I don't think he can tackle a larger RV, but you can always ask him) and you have an engine problem, I can HIGHLY recommend and commend One-Stop Engine Rebuilding as the first place to call and take your vehicle. Fair prices. Honest people. Certified technicians. Stand behind their work. Courteous. Friendly. Can you really ask for more?

The engine now has 12,000 miles on it and is performing perfectly (although I still knock on wood as I write this - who's superstitious?). It's about ready for its next oil change and I'll be switching over to synthetic oil, my preferred kind of oil for all my vehicles for the past 40 years.

So, while I'm still here in the east. I plan to make my way to visit with Wilson and the team when I get back into the LA area. Never lose a valued contact and connection when you're a nomadic traveler. Live free and be happy. EH

2 comments:

Michael Wright said...

So, what was the 'gremlin'?

Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

It was a minute vacuum leak in the EGR system that was finally detected and located by deep electronic (neurosurgeon) analysis and diagnostics. It was causing the engine to run lean (that we had already figured out long before). We had changed every sensor and every valve, but everything checked out. We even changed out the ECM and it made no difference. I had about five experienced automotive people (including one fellow who had a background in automotive engineering) assisting in the troubleshooting from a distance. We went over the EGR system twice or three times because we suspected something there, but couldn't find it. Ultimately, we opted to replace the entire EGR system. That instantly corrected the problem and it's run perfectly since. Actually, it was running perfectly right after the rebuild. It even passed the CA emissions tests three times on a dynamometer and it was an east coast vehicle with no CA emissions add-ons. It ran great until it got to about 1600 rpm, then the exhaust manifolds turned cherry red. A tiny little leak that apparently could only be detected and found by high-tech electronics. Like the old saying goes, "This sure ain't your grandfather's Oldsmobile, anymore." (Of course, young people will soon be asking, "What's an Oldsmobile?")

LF7BH
Ed