: Lightning strikes the same place twice (or pretty damn close)

11-30-07, 12:58 AM
They say lightning never strikes the same place twice, but it can strike pretty damn close. In this case, I'm talking figuratively, not literally.

2 1/2 years ago, Hoover and I were on our way home from the dog park in Betty when I heard a couple of loud clunks, then looked in my rear view mirror to see a pulley spinning in the middle of the road. The bolts holding the crankshaft pulley to the harmonic balancer had sheared off. Fortunately, home was less than a mile away, so I was able to drive home without doing any further damage. Removing the remains of the sheared bolts and finding new pulleys (one single groove for the power steering bolted to a double groove for the alternator, water pump and A/C compressor) proved difficult, and Betty spent most of that summer laid up in my garage.

Yesterday, I was driving Cruella up I-5 for a couple of photo shoots and interviews I had scheduled in Portland. About 5 miles north of Salem, the "Charge" light came on. Then, about two minutes later, the "Coolant Temp" light came on, and I knew I had lost my serpentine belt. I pulled off the freeway, looked under the hood to confirm my suspicions, and called AAA for a tow the 50 miles or so back to my mechanic in Corvallis.

When I had looked under the hood, I could see something was out of alignment along the path of the belt. It's hard to tell what some of the parts are down there, and since I knew where the power steering pump and alternator are on this engine, I feared the A/C compressor clutch had given way (even though the compressor was not running). That would be an expensive fix.

Got the car to my mechanic and it turns out that it wasn't the A/C compressor clutch I saw. It was the water pump pulley. The bolts holding the pulley had come loose or sheared off, shredding the serpentine belt in the process (I was cruising at 70 at the time). I don't think this is a common failure, but I've had almost identical failures happen on both of my cars. As one of my friends put it, "it must be the way you drive."

As with the pulleys for Betty, finding one for Cruella was a problem, too. I had no trouble finding water pumps online at NAPA and other auto parts places, but could not find a pulley to save my life. Fortunately, Chad (I~LUV~Caddys8792) works as a service writer for a Chevy dealership, so I called him to see if he could find a GM part number for the pulley. After about 10 minutes, he called me back with the number, which I passed along to my mechanic. My mechanic was having trouble finding the part, too, so Chad's help made the difference in me getting my car back today. And the price for the pulley on my bill was the same price Chad quoted me from his dealership.

While changing out the pulley, my mechanic found the bearing for the idler pulley was pretty worn (remember, my car has 240,000 miles on it), so I had them replace that, too. For the two pulleys, the serpentine belt and labor, the total bill was $320. Not exactly chump change, but I haven't had to make any kind of major repair to the car in more than I year, so I really can't complain.

I'm curious to know if anybody else has had a similar (and obscure) failure on more than one car they've owned.

11-30-07, 01:20 AM
I've had almost that exact failure on my Buick. The tensioner sheared right off the water pump housing. Even then the mighty Buick didn't let me down -it kept slogging, although let me tell you pulling a 4,400 pound car around sans power steering is a nightmare when it's designed to have it... My MR2 has two belts; an alternator belt and an air conditioner belt. That is all. (car is wondefuly simple -no power steering, no power brakes, (hydraulic yes, boosted no), manual transmission, etc. Just has "power" where it counts... windows, door locks... :) ) I'm changing the belts and the alternator (as it was bad -they are a common failure on the 4AGE motor, and about the only one, too; damn motor is bulletproof), and I discover, low and behold, that the ape who last worked on the car sheared the top off the tensioner adjuster bolt (tension is appied to the belt by a pulley that rides up and down on a bolt). How did he get it to stay where it was, you ask, gentle reader? Well, he did it the same way he solved almost every other problem the car had -he put his blowtorch to it... a new quick trip to the Toyota dealership netted me a complete new tensioner assembly...