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[personal profile] tnrkitect
For those that aren't aware, I drive what is commonly referred to as a "clunker". It is a 1991 Chrysler Le Baron Convertible, black, with a black top and a grey leather interior. It was a sweet car in its prime, but the years have not been kind to it. A previous owner had put it into a ditch, creasing a fender and warping the original rims. I have managed to fix some of the issues in the year or so that I have owned it, but some of them (like the body work) are too expensive, costing more than the car is worth.

While out shopping last night, we ran into a slight problem when I tried to start the car after finishing up at Hobby Lobby here in Huntsville. The key would not go into the ignition all the way, rendering the car unstartable. Try as I might, I could not get the key in, and unfortunately, my tools were at the house.  The problem was that the tumblers (the spring loaded little pins inside the lock cylinder that adjust to the contours of the key, and when in the right position, they allow the key to turn) had extended too far, and were blocking the key's path.

So, I had to call a mobile locksmith. This was $75, or about what a tow would have cost, but after about 15-20 minutes of him working on it, he managed to get the tumblers back into position (possibly wedged out of the way) and informed me that it was working, but he wouldn't trust it to not fail again, so I should get the cylinder replaced ASAP.

Now, if I were not mechanically inclined, I would most likely have dropped it off at a mechanic to get the work done, and this would have most likely set me back between $100-$150. But I AM mechanically inclined, so after he got it working again, I came home, used the power of the internet to find the part at a nearby parts store, then went and spent $19 on a new cylinder with key.

Today, I grabbed the Haynes repair manual, read up on what needed to be done and how to do it, and found what I thought were the needed tools. Well they were, but all I had was a bit driver with exchangeable bits to work with. This normally would be all I need, but the cowling on the steering column which I had to remove to get access to the ignition lock, had two torx screws buried deep inside of it, and the bit driver was too wide to fit into the access holes to get to them. So, a quick trip to Lowes and $11 later, I had a shiny new set of torx screwdrivers.

Once I had the proper tool, it took me about 10-15 minutes to remove the cowling, remove the old cylinder, put the new cylinder in, and reassemble everything. A quick turn of the new key, and the car started back up the way it was supposed to. :-)

So, to recap, I spent:
$75 on the locksmith to get the car temporarily drivable
$19 on the ignition cylinder and key
$11 on the new set of torx screwdrivers

Grand total $105

If I had just towed the car to the mechanic and let them deal with it, I would have been out:
$75-100 on the tow bill
$25 on the ignition cylinder and key (they add a surcharge to the parts)
$60-120 for the labor of fixing it (this depends on how long the manuals say the repair should take)
$60 for the cab fare / rental car while the car was in the shop

Grand total $220 - $305

The car now has two keys, one for the ignition and one for the doors and trunk, but it works so I won't complain. :-)

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tnrkitect - Musings of an Unconventional Mind

June 2011

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