Making a Mountain out of a Molehill

Whether you say it in Japanese, ‘shin-shou-bou-dai’, or in English, it amounts to the same thing: You imagine the worst when it comes to a mechanical problem, especially when it comes to that JDM vehicle you just took a chance on importing.

Such is life when you are your own mechanic, or even armchair quarterback. In your mind’s eye, oil leaks morph into monsoons. Funny noises signal “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. Mystery starting problems are Orwellian in their conspiracies. We’ve all fallen into this pitfall, some of us multiple times, and yet, when the next problem crops up, we drive our significant others crazy with dour prophecies of long frustrating nights in the garage ultimately leading to financial ruin.

The world wide web, and its questionable sources of “information” serve to feed this paranoia: super-sized helpings of rear main seals threaten to belch their life blood, while head gaskets part the coolant seas. Convincing arguments from those who read somewhere that “this part is a factory flaw and always fails at 123,456 kms” have us all scrambling for our factory service manuals, and our 10mm sockets.

So there I was, once again with a new-to-me Japanese Import, fresh off the boat, but staring a palm-sized oil puddle underneath it in my garage, threatening wildlife for hundreds of square kilometers. Dawn dish soap in hand, I began thrusting my flashlight in all directions, trying to sort out the source of the calamity. Thus began my descent into despair – What if it’s…? Or possibly…? It might even be coming from…? Panic-fuelled scenarios crossed my mind.

Did I just make a giant mistake?

Further exacerbating this hysteria, my drive the following morning (after carefully checking my oil level) revealed a mystery clunk in the front end! Every bump became a landmine. Every pothole had the potential to send my balljoints prematurely to the grave.

I limped it home that evening, thinking of arranging alternate transportation for the following day, when I decided to take a more pragmatic approach. Degreasing the underside, I rinsed off the remains, then traced every possible source of black gold/texas tea. (I might’ve checked on a forum or two as well, but with a decidedly more skeptical eye to manic posters). I finally narrowed the Exxon Valdez down to a leaking oil pressure switch. Replacing this innocuous-looking $8 part would probably keep Greenpeace off my back for a few more years.

Since I was down there, I grabbed my trusty prybar and attacked my front end with renewed vigour. As I was levering the suspected upper balljoint from a new angle, I collided with the front swaybar. Clunk.  Hmmmm. That sounded familiar? 10 seconds later my “failing suspension” was remedied. A 17mm wrench and 10 seconds was all it took to tighten up a loose nut on a swaybar endlink.

Yes, I see the irony here. This loose nut was reminded of an idiom about mountains and molehills, and how they relate to the KISS principle. Keep it simple, stupid.

I’m – as you probably guessed – with stupid. 

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3 Comments

  1. Brian

    OMG. Phil. This is the best thing I’ve read all day.

    I’ve thought my ball joints were shot since summer. Semi-random, hard to replicate something going bump in the night when cornering, typically into my driveway.

    Turns out it’s the completely shot rear sway bar end link bushings. With the rear in the air, I can move the sway bar with my pinky.

    Here’s to $20 fixes.

  2. […] didn’t want to make the same mistake as last time ( Needle Small – Pole Big ) so I did some deep breathing exercises and put a parts list together. Rock Auto had the parts on […]


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