February 10, 2012 § 9 Comments

The lengthly delay between my last post and this one owes itself almost entirely to a string of mechanical maladies so long and convoluted, it would be funny. If it were funny, that is.

Let’s see… first, the logging winch for the tractor, our most-used and highly valued implement. We rely on it for harvesting firewood and saw logs, as well as pulling the plow truck out of the ditch. Somehow, the winch’s steel cable became wrapped around the metal cage that circles it, rendering it unusable. To fix the beast, I had to extract its guts, cut the mangled cage free of the cable with an angle grinder, and then reinstall everything with the new part. It could have been worse (as things generally can be); the weather has been unusually sunny and warm, so bashing my bare knuckles against a hunk of cold steel was quite bearable, if not downright pleasant. Still and all. Money and time evaporated in the process, and neither feels particularly abundant these days.

About the same time the winch went, the transmission in the truck began slipping. This was only a few weeks after I’d spent about a week riding a high from having gotten the old pig inspected, a feat I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to pull off. A new-used tranny for the truck runs about $1500. To rebuild the one that’s in it would cost about $1500. The truck is worth about $800. Hmm. Just yesterday, I dumped one of those miracle-promising transmission additives into the thing, hoping against all reason and experience that it will somehow call forth the miracle of smooth shifting.

Shortly after the Chevy’s transmission began slipping, the viscous coupler in the Subaru – the component that enables the all-wheel-drive function of the car – blew up, spewing bits into the gear box and wreaking general havoc. A new-to-us coupler was obtained and the AWD returned to working condition, but the transmission now makes a horribly annoying whirring noise that becomes more incessant with speed, rendering highway travel nearly unbearable. This is a fixable condition, to be sure, but the car has 170,000 miles on it, enough underbody rust to make hitting potholes an unsettling prospect, and burns a quart of oil every couple tanks of gas. If any of ya’ll are interested, I’ll make you a hell of a deal on it.

Then there’s the plow truck. A couple weeks back, when I was plowing the last storm with the boys (precious few storms this year, and this makes the boys sad, for they like nothing better than an early morning plow run, cranking the local classic rock station and slamming into snowbanks. Come to think of it, I like nothing better, myself), it commenced to stalling out every 42 seconds or so. I neglected to mention this new “feature” to Penny, who used the plow truck for a local errand when she couldn’t get the other truck started (damn… I’d almost forgotten about that). Unfortunately, she made it about six miles before the darn thing conked out, at which point she could not get it re-started. As such, the plow truck, which is so lacking in road worthiness it doesn’t even have license plates on it, was marooned at the side of a road somewhere deep in rural northern Vermont. (Happy ending: We did manage to get the truck home without further mechanical incident or legal complication).

As of today, the winch is very close to being fully operational (hoping to finish reassembly this afternoon), I’m too scared to drive the truck for fear the transmission will still be slipping, and I’m trying to find a halfway decent replacement Subaru at a reasonable price. Which is to say, MY idea of reasonable. Which is to say, I’m not having much luck. And the plow truck? Hell with it. There ain’t no snow in the forecast, anyhow.

Ah, well. The sun is shining, the house is warm, and I’m about to eat a barely cooked hamburger slathered in Penny’s homemade garlic soft cheese. Life’s ok, after all.

§ 9 Responses to Broken

  • Jean says:

    ROFL…. that was too good. I’m not laughing at you Ben, I’m laughing with you. Having been through the same type of problems myself more times than I care to count. And yes, a burger with homemade garlic cheese does put everything into perspective doesn’t it.

  • Victoria says:

    When it rains, it pours. When something breaks, everything breaks!

  • Suzanne says:

    yikes thats a lot all at once~ love the pic of the boys. hmmm does penny have a blog where she would post this delicous sounding garlic cheese spread recipe?

  • Angie says:

    Ben –
    go see Mark Nurenberg up in Lyndonville (South End Auto)
    he can hook you up with a decent Subaru
    he’s a good guy!
    good luck with it all and enjoy the sun!

  • Ben Hewitt says:


    I’ll see what I can do about getting you a recipe. While Penny has pretty much figured out email, she’s not much of a blog person.

    Angie, thanks for the tip. I found a pretty nice ’96 Outback with the 2.2 (the old, good engine that doesn’t eat head gaskets). And the miracle transmission juice seems to be working! And I finished putting the winch back together and it actually works!! Things is looking up.

    • Angie says:

      Ben ~
      I’ve got a ’98 legacy/outback wagon
      it has the 2.2 but guess what
      yep, head gasket went this past october
      Mark put a new engine in for me at n/c – he’s well aware of the 2.5 vs. 2.2
      trust me, if you get stuck he’s right there with ya!
      He may even consider yours for trade-in

      just sayin…

  • Ben Hewitt says:

    Hi again Angie,

    Sorry ’bout your head gasket. I think (hope) that’s pretty rare with the 2.2’s. We’ve had pretty good luck with that motor… owned a 95 Legacy that went nearly 250k with the only big $ being the clutch… and that was at about 180k. Not bad. Here’s hoping our “new” one does as well.

    I’m glad to know about Mark, tho. We don’t generally get more than a year or three out of any particular rig, being as we tend to buy them at the tail end of their natural lifespan. So I might have call to pay him a visit before the passing of too many moons.

  • We are looking for an “affordable” subaru too -…
    Our 92 Suburban needs to have a break sometimes.
    I loved reading your post and am excited to have found your blog.
    Warm wishes, Tonya

  • Clover says:

    I got 40,000 extra miles out of a van one time with those miracle transmission fluids! It took about 10 miles to stop slipping, and it never happened again. Hope you have the same kind of luck with your truck!

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