The Work Continues
Okay, so it has been two months since the last post. Where we left you Bea was in need of a new wastegate actuator, which was unfortunately discontinued. We had ordered one on ebay and were crossing our fingers that it was the right part.
Well, we were pretty sure that it was wrong as soon as it arrived. The page we ordered it from showed the chevy express 3500 as a compatible vehicle, but when the box arrived it had a big sticker on the front saying, in all caps, “NOT FOR VAN USE.” We took it in anyway, but they quickly confirmed our fears that this was not Bea’s salvation.
Back to scouring the depths of the internet for the elusive part. I never lost hope that we would find it. The internet rarely lets you down if you are willing to keep digging. There are so many of these vans in circulation, it seemed impossible that there wouldn’t be at least a salvaged part to be found somewhere.
Unfortunately, for a long time this search turned up nothing. All the big parts retailers showed the part, but, when you tried to order it, it would tell you that the part was discontinued. There were a few sketchier sites that presented themselves as having the part, but the ordering process was not clear. They all linked back to the main GM parts retailers which we had already found did not carry the part.
I was on the verge of losing my faith in the internet as the deliverer of all things when I stumbled on something–a little flicker of hope. During a deep dive into ebay I dug up something that looked to me like the right part. It was definitely a wastegate actuator for a Chevy vehicle. It closely resembled the part we already bought, but it was different in the right ways: the brackets faced the correct direction and it had a much longer tube. The only problem is that it had the wrong part number.
I went back to the GM manual and searched the part number listed on this ebay auction and it brought up something totally different. Some piece that was long and thin, without the brackets of the wastegate actuator. It certainly didn’t feel like a guaranteed win, but I felt good enough to take a $50 chance on it.
The part arrived and we hand-delivered it to the shop. The mechanic came out to have a look.
“Yeah, this looks like the right part. The brackets are facing the right direction.”
We were elated. The shop had her for a couple more days and then she came home. The check engine light stayed off on the highway for the first time since we bought her. Her gas mileage was notably better and she felt smoother. We went ahead and threw in a new air filter while we were at it–turns out her old one had a couple mud wasp nests in it (seems like something that should’ve been found in the inspections, but oh well). With the new wastegate actuator and a clean air filter she was really purring–things were good. Time for round two at the emissions facility.
We took her back to the same place. The guy there asked us how much we had spent on repairs and we tried to come up with a number quickly. We landed somewhere around $700 and he gave us a look like we’d said something stupid or at least a little sad. It wasn’t until he left the room that we saw on the wall that if we had spent $750 or more we could have had the emissions requirement waived for the year. Oops.
It is an incredibly nerve-wracking thing, having your old diesel’s emissions tested. We sat in his tiny waiting room, perusing one of the many evangelical pamphlets while scripture boomed in from the too-loud radio. We did our best to relax, but it was not easy.
The wall of the waiting room is shared with the testing room and the sound of Bea running at 60 miles per hour on the other side is a bit like what I imagine it would be to be in the cockpit of a rocket as it took flight. We’d been through this before and then we felt that it took a very long time–30 minutes or so. This time it was over in about 10.
He came into the room and delivered the bad news. This time around her emissions were worse. Much worse. Could be the new air filter, he told us. But he also told us he couldn’t really say.
We left with our heads hung low. Since we bought Bea it has felt like nothing has gone our way. It has felt like we were ripped off. The guy we bought her from gave us some story about the check engine light and then we are pretty sure he went in and turned it off before taking her in for the pre-purchase inspection. He gave us what we thought was a good deal, but not a good deal if he knew that the turbo needed to be replaced. It has been enormously frustrating to want to start this project in earnest and not even be able to get her registered.
I was doing my best to keep our spirits up in the way back. To remain optimistic. She didn’t pass emissions, but we got the wastegate actuator (meaning we didn’t have to replace the turbo), and she was driving much better with the new air filter. We were in a dark mood about it all, but we were hanging on.
And then I looked down and found that thing most likely to really break our spirit: that little amber light on the dash had clicked back on. What felt like the worst thing that could’ve happened on the way back from failing her emissions test, with our spirits already in the gutter–time to Check the Engine once more.