I’ve seldom been inspired to write about an automobile. The contemporary sleek, unadorned hulk of metal and plastic that lacks the character of classic designs, or at least the ones I can afford, serves only to transport my wife and me from point A to point B. However mundane this seems, it is still necessary in today’s environment, especially when you work thirty miles from your home. In order to maintain reliability, I must also maintain our vehicles.
That brings me to my sudden inspiration. Yesterday, I successfully replaced the drive belt on our 2008 Honda CRV. I hope never to do that again. Although I enjoy a good challenge, this task was nearly beyond that measure of a man’s worth and bordered on the impossible. The engineers at Honda have so cleverly designed the engine compartment of the 2008 CRV so as to make it almost imperative that the owner relinquish maintenance of the drive belt to the professional mechanic, thus providing a source of income for them. I imagine what they had in mind was that the owner take the vehicle to the Honda dealership. But, I confronted the dare and won.
I have to say, that this chore is not for the faint of heart. Finding a belt was difficult enough and I finally had to have a local auto parts store order it. Then I set to work removing the splash shield beneath the passenger’s side of the engine. That’s when I was able to actually see the belt. I also had to remove the power steering reservoir and pull it aside on top. After discovering that the space between the idler pulley and the wheel well liner was too narrow for a ratchet and socket, I used a socket wrench with a 14 mm socket. I didn’t curse too much at this. Of course, the handle was too short to allow me to pull the idler pulley spring far enough to loosen the belt, so I had to cut off a 3/4 inch pipe from one of my pipe clamps to slip over the socket wrench handle to afford greater leverage. This involved more cursing. I was able to work the belt from around a pulley and it came free. No cursing there.
I was so elated at my success I grabbed the new belt and proceeded to install it by reversing the procedure. This led to more cursing as I discovered that I had no idea how to snake the belt around the seven pulleys involved. After the third attempt, and a lot more cursing, I finally retreated to my computer to search for a drive belt diagram. In less than ten minutes I had a diagram in hand. Boy, was wrong. I hadn’t tried the path shown on the diagram. Back to the Honda for another try. After four more attempts, involving the belt slipping off the to pulley while I attempted to put it around a bottom pulley, I finally enlisted the aid of a stick to wedge the belt in place on top. I also had to use a couple of coat hangers bent in hook fashion to position the belt around the pulleys. The space was too narrow for hands. I was so busy by then, I quit cursing long enough to see the belt finally seat itself around the final pulley. You can imagine my surprise and joy.
For a process that would normally take about five minutes on most other vehicles, I spent around two hours. Had I not been so stubborn, I most likely would have set fire to the damned thing. But, I have once more beaten the engineers at their own game. Since I used to be an engineer myself, I pride myself in meeting such challenges. It does wonders for my ego. And we now have a vehicle that is good for another hundred thousand miles.
If any of you have had similar revelations in your life, let me know about it. We can compare notes.