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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Three weekends ago, I had a great time with a close friend of mine and loved every minute of it.  The past two weekends have taken quite a different turn for me and I cannot seem to escape the stupid little instances of inconvenience that will not dissipate.  Once one little problem ends and is resolved, something else has popped up.  Sure I can throw down some serious irritation to myself to vent and then try to resolve things, but I do manage to stay positive about things...I think.  I will explain.

The Thunderbird has had an issue that I could not track down for the life of me and it has been happening for well over a year.  At random intervals the engine would act like it was trying to pull too much air in through the intake, the idle speed would momentarily spike and it would sound as if you had a commercial-grade vacuum cleaner under the hood.  Now, I figured out that a little throttle blip would make this problem stop. Doing this was good enough for me because the problem happened very intermittently and I had driven myself bat-shit crazy trying to analyze the problem (pardon my French)...Until about three hours ago when I started the car and the problem would not subside.  Watch the video and I assure you that the noise is incredibly loud in person:

The noise would go away if you were driving down the road and the tachometer was reading above 1500rpm, but the second you dropped below that threshold, you were back in the vortex zone.  At idle, it fluctuated between 750-2100rpm just sitting there and would eventually say "Forget you, jerk." and snuff itself out.  After replacing both PCV valves, going over every vacuum hose, and performing a leak down test to no avail, I called my dad to vent, even though he knows nothing about modern engines;  I just needed to walk away from it for a bit.  I had convinced myself that the car had a major intake leak and needed a new gasket, which is many hours of tear down coupled to many hours of reassembly and if you get one torque spec wrong, the process must be repeated again.  I was not happy.

Then, as I sat there, staring at the car, I thought to myself "IAC, Drew.  You didn't think about the IAC, you idiot."
See that little, shiny cylinder on the right-center of the picture?  That is the IAC.  IAC stands for "Idle Air Control" and it is a little solenoid that limits the amount of air the engine can suck into the intake in whatever way the computer deems necessary to make the car run.  You see, when everything is electronic in a car, you need little bits like this to control how the car runs.  Emissions control legislation requires all of this because the old, mechanical way is apparently evil.  I learned all of this through my years of taking auto classes in high school, and my continued learning over the years for the simple fact that I will not let anyone else touch my cars if something goes wrong.

Meanwhile, Emily was sitting on her perch behind me saying "I have a carburetor and if you would just go ahead and finish putting me back together, you wouldn't have to deal with this modern engine crap."  Then I told her to shut up...

The IAC is held onto the throttle body housing with two 8mm bolts, one hose from the PCV valve, and a wiring harness.  After taking out the bolts, the IAC unit was free and looked shiny as new.  This engine only has about 25,000miles on it and I am assuming this was replaced with it, because the date stamped into it is newer than the car itself.  Random interjection.

Now, gasoline does not come into contact directly with this part, because all it does is limits the amount of airflow allowed to the engine when the car is sitting still at idle, but I assumed whatever junk made it past the air filter could become stuck within it and possibly cause an error in what the engine management computer tells it to do.  So, I grabbed some cotton swabs and dumped some high-octane gasoline into a little GladWare lid to test my theory.

Check that out.  Sure enough there was a ton of carbon inside the IAC.  And sure enough, I managed to dump some of that gasoline on myself.  I would rather wear it than ingest it, so that is a fair trade.

Throw that sucker back on the car and pray that my theory worked.

Sure enough, once the computer figured out the parameters had changed for the Idle Air Control circuit, everything leveled out like it should be and the car runs perfectly now.  I took it for a jaunt down the road a few miles and called my dad back.  The first thing he said when he picked up was "I knew you would get it figured out because you don't give up on anything."  It only took a year, but, yes, everything is now well-sorted.  

I even had time to get my lawn mower back up to snuff after the pull-start assembly disintegrated last weekend.  My uncle Cecil told me to just take the unit off my engine and bring it to him so he and my uncle Jerry could tinker with it while I was working instead of me taking time to mess with it (I think they get bored in their retired age and look forward to little projects like that).
This is where the assembly goes:

Here is my pull-start assembly after my uncles spent a few hours arguing over it and rebuilt it for me:

I swear, it is the absolute worst design and I can see why Briggs & Stratton abandoned it after just a few years.  I mean, look at it...You have a nylon gear that runs up a spiraled, nylon shaft until it catches the flywheel when you pull the rope.  This is a horrible idea as opposed to just putting a rope on a pulley bolted to the crankshaft and calling it a day.

I put it back on and it seems to work, but I had no business starting a lawnmower at 9:30PM, during a rain storm.  I will give it a go tomorrow.  But, hey!  I fixed two problems today.  Awesome...

I will leave you with this for today:  Never give up.  Everything in life is frustrating at times.  Life as a whole, machinery, yourself, your family, and your friends can all give you a run for your patience.  Vent these out in any way you can that is healthy for you personally, then step back, breathe a bit and tell yourself everything will work out in it's own time.  

Hopefully you will not end up like this poor gummy bear who is sealed in a bag of evil worms all by himself...

Grace and Peace,



  1. Hi guy, that mustang looks like a beaut! I had a red '66 as my first car. Emily is her name, I like it. I bet she purrs once you get her motor running and those gears grinding and shifting! How long you had Emily? Take care, peace

  2. Thanks for the comment! My dad actually bought it when he was 19 years old as his first car. It sat in a barn for nearly two decades until I started working on it when I was 14 and it became my first car. I drove it through high school and then stored it until 2008 when it put it the garage at my house (I'm 27 now). It was born an automatic and I am about 90% finished with a Toploader manual swap. I bagged and tagged every bolt from the automatic in case I want it to have matching numbers again. I will put up a blog soon showing what I have done so far because I have quite a few pictures of the process floating around.

  3. I take it you're Drew? I'm Rusty btw...that's a killer story about the car. Wish I still had mine. :) you write some detailed and interesting blogs! Good stuff there! Post some pics of your baby Emily so we can she her with the manual tranny?! So you're a songwriter or what do you do? You seem to wear many hats but that keeps the mind going. Take care.

    Peace bro

    1. Yep! I'm Drew. Thank you for the compliment and for reading them! How did you come across my blog in the first place? I am always curious.

      I will make a post with pictures of Emily soon when I can get everything put together and track down all of the pictures between my new and old computer. Thanks for the suggestion. Music and songwriting is my hobby which has opened some doors I did not walk into in the past (with good reason). Now I do it because I love learning and music is something you never know everything about. That's how my brain works because once I become interested in something, I feel the need to know everything about it that I can. I have worked in a few fields but I am currently in carpentry, which is the family business, building custom furniture, kitchens, etc. It's really nice to meet you and thanks for reading my stuff! I look forward to some more good conversation with you soon. If you know anyone else who may enjoy reading it, be sure to share!

  4. I had me a briggs mower. Thing ran like chili balls, traded it for 2 Mexicans straight up in front of the chevron on 9 HWY. Only downside... I saved $14 from havin to nigga rig parts and pieces of Nene in front of the taco truck. You know how those burrito bombs can be!

    If your in the market for a lawn service, I can put you in touch with the head dog. You can pay it meatballs, if you know what it is? :)