Perhaps one of the most exciting (or not) things about owning an older car is that you know eventually something will break, you just never know when or where it will choose to do so. Take, for example, our ignition switch. Our dear, sweet old jeep decided to wait until we were all the way over in West Yellowstone (on vacation!) before it so kindly let us know that we needed a new one. Exciting, right? So when the same dear, sweet old jeep started making horrible noises in her rear end, we braced ourselves for more… excitement. Only, as it turns out, this noise was not a simple repair. So, instead of paying the repair shop a small fortune, we decided to tackle this one ourselves.
For those of you who have never had the pleasure of searching online for a rear axle for an 18 year old car, let me tell you, you are missing out, because that is some fun stuff. We located one at a salvage yard in Spokane, ordered it with our fingers crossed that it was in good shape, paid some freight, and waited for it to arrive. Meanwhile, every time we drove our jeep into town, we were silently chanting please don’t break, please don’t break… Apparently begging your car not to break while petting the steering wheel really does work. Who knew?
The differential didn’t look like much on the outside, but everything on the inside seemed in tip-top shape. Let the repairs begin! Due to a gravel driveway and lack of garage, we had to jack up our jeep on the basketball court. We didn’t get very far the first weekend before we realized they had cut a brake line, so the race was on to find replacement parts. Once we figured out what to do with that little issue, it was too late to start on the axle, so it had to wait until the next weekend.
So last Sunday we spent the entire day outside, tackling an axle. The stress level of this project was actually pretty high. There was the fear that the new axle would not work, or would be broken in one way or another. What if we could not get it back together properly, or broke something else? Not to mention that our car was now missing an important part, so if we needed anything from town (25 miles away…) we had no way to get there.
Luckily, Rob and I work well together, so really, it was sort of like a date day. A really cold, dirty, uncomfortable date day. Okay, maybe not… But things did go relatively smooth. It wasn’t until we were almost finished when I learned that I have super human-strength. How else could you explain the bolt that I snapped in half while trying to get the nut off? (Oopsie.) Apparently stabilizer bar links are kind of important, so we had the pleasure of ordering them next day air.
There was a lot of rolling around on the ground, a good deal of grunting (that thing was heavy!) and perhaps even a swear word or two… or three… (hundred), but in the end, everything went back together the way it was supposed to. The poor jeep had to spend another two nights jacked up while waiting for those overnight parts to come, but we were able to finish her up yesterday afternoon. Our first test drive required some tweaking. Our second test drive required a little more tweaking. Our third test drive: Success! No more grinding sound in the rear end, no more horrible noise when we hit the brakes. Silence. Well, as silent as an 18 year old car can be anyway. What a relief to have successfully replaced our rear end! We celebrated with corn dogs and ice cream sandwiches, because we are that kind of wild.
Now, when I look outside, I see Peej (yes, that is her name) sitting in her own parking space, all four wheels safely on the ground, and I am pretty sure she is happy. I can almost hear her plotting her next move. Bring it on, Peej! With Rob’s knowledge, my super-human strength, and about 200 YouTube videos, we can fix just about…. No, I am just kidding. Please don’t break, please don’t break, please don’t break…