Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life

I had not played with head gasket or short-block replacements in over twenty years, at which time I did some work on two naturally aspirated (carburetor equipped) cars. One had an early computer control system and the other was fully vacuum controlled. Then came the needed repair discussed in yesterday’s post to our 1997 F-150.  If you are mechanically inclined and have done major work on old cars, you can work on modern ones, too. However, you will need more tools than in the old days. In particular, you should have an inexpensive OBD-II (On Board Diagnostics, Second Generation) scanner. This is the less-than-$100 tool that tells you what the trouble codes are after the check engine light comes on. I received two such codes in the course of my repair. One was a misfire in cylinder 3 on the final start prior to the repair. This allowed me to conclude the likely location of the coolant leak and pay particularly close attention to the area near the cylinder 3 intake. The second code concerned a faulty throttle position sensor. I reconnected the TPS, reset the code, and the code has not returned. I considered that code spurious, but will have to start repairs – probably starting with replacing the TPS –  if it occurs again.

The next thing you should have that is essential are directions. I particularly like factory service manuals, which are best purchased long before needed, while they are still available. It is an expenditure that has no return until years after purchase, but is well worth the expense. It makes sense to purchase these for your vehicles if you plan to keep your vehicles for a long time.

The last thing you need is a basic understanding of how fuel injection and modern engine control work. That will be the subject of a later post.

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