The $50 Oil Change

or How much horse bedding does it take to soak up 1 gallon of Castrol 10w-30?

Ugh… One of those days. I spent most of my day interviewing and eliminating candidates from a job we’re looking to fill. The nerve of some folks, man… It just goes to show that a good resume will get you in the door, and that you can’t judge a book (or person) by their resume alone. Felt like my whole day was a waste.

On the way home I decided I’d do something productive. The cage was a little overdue for an oil change and for the first time in a long time I had an evening free.

So I pull in the driveway, jump out, put the car up on ramps. It looks like it might rain soon. I run in the house, change clothes and get busy. Like any shade tree mechanic in 85 degree weather with 90% humidity I opt for my wife beater, shorts and flip flops.

This isn’t rocket science and I’ve changed the oil on this car ~20 plus times if not more. Should take 5-10 minutes tops.

I get the oil pail, of course it’s full, from the last time so I dump that into a 5gal pail. Crawl under and remove the drain plug. Simple as that.

Then we get to the oil filter. This particular car, a 1999 Chrysler Cirrus, has the oil filter right there where you can see it and reach it. It’s right there where you can’t really get a decent oil wrench on it. No sweat, been down this road before and I can usually muscle it off, but not this time. I really try not to over tighten them but with this car it always seems to bake them on or something. After busting knuckles trying all 3 of my wrenches and being unable to come up with the combination I’ve used in the past, I start the hunt for the big-ass channel locks that I have, but they are missing.

I finally give in and go with the ‘drive a screw driver through the filter’ plan. That rarely works unless you get it clean through the center, even then it’s a iffy situation. As in this case it only tore the filter open. But open enough to allow me to grab the damn thing with the smaller pair of channel locks that I could find and get it off.

Easy peasy…

I locate my spare filter, lube it up and install it. Just about then it starts to sprinkle, and thunder quite a bit. #@!$!, so I hop up, grab the gallon jug of 10w 30 and start pouring it in. Of course you can’t pour it in with the funnel I have so you dribble it in.

I’m about 3/4 way through the gallon, just about ready to stop and check the level and my right foot feels funny. Uhm, it’s wet and slimy feeling. I look down and realize that I never put the drain plug back in.

$#@%@$% The cardboard I was laying on is totally soaked and a river is forming that is running into my barn. @@#$#@! I don’t have any oil dry so I throw my rag down in the path hoping to slow it down. I hoof it back to the other barn hoping, no, praying, that we still have some shavings left. I grab the package from and run back to the car. About a 1/2 a package of shavings and think I’ve got it covered. But I’m also covered in oil/shavings…

What a waste and mess!

Luckilly I had another gallon so I could at least finish the job.

Sorry no pictures, didn’t want to get the camera in the messy state I was in.


Hope your day was better than mine.

And the Cirrus Lives on…

About 4 years ago we purchased this 1999 Chrysler Cirrus:


It had roughly 40k miles on it. It was a direct replacement for the Honda Wagon that we had, which was stolen. For some reason we didn’t want another wagon, which, in hind sight was a bad idea.

We were a tad hesitant to buy a Dodge/Chrysler product, especially after coming from Honda’s, but it was newer than what was stolen, had far fewer miles, and was in some ways an upgrade, leather seats, CD player, v6, cute gauges, etc, etc. It also fit nicely with-in the budget from the insurance check.

It now has 117k miles and still runs pretty good for what it is.

The only real repairs it’s needed to date were brakes, and tires (both consumables).

We did go through one episode where the speed sensor died (apparently common on these). The speedo quit, and it shifted down into first and stayed there. This repair was $20 and about an hour and a half of my time. Locating the dang thing was the hardest part, this sensor isn’t easy to get too.

We had the regular transmission flush and fill around 75k because it wasn’t shifting as smooth as it should. Shortly there after it started acting as though the transmission was going to die. Really rough shifting, etc. But that simply passed and, well, it’s chugged along for another 30k miles.

The check engine light came on around 100k miles. But the car still ran perfectly fine, so no rush to fix that.

Last week however, it hiccupped and went into limp mode. It would start up, shift up through the gears one time then back down into 2nd gear when you came to a stop and then stayed there. Ugh…

Transmission problems just suck. The fluid was still red and clean, not burnt. So I was fairly certain it was something electronic. Of course the Chiltons manual in this regard was no help.

After a trip to the dealer, the results are in. $180 for a different speed sensor (apparently there are two). $250 for the EVG valve replacement, and it’s as good as new. Or as good as it was 60k miles ago.

It needs a tune up. No doubt about that, but the dealer cost for that is a whopping $450 dollars. I think we’ll wait a bit. It can’t be _that_ hard, or can it.

We’ll see if we get through this summer with this car and a young driver before we put another $450 in it.

The bottom line though is that this car has been very, very good for us. Will we rush out and buy another Chrysler? Probably not, but it has served us well.