Not A Fan – You Thought I Was Capable

If you had read the previous post about issues with my car’s cooling fan, you might have the impression that I had a clue as to what I was doing and everything was going to be awesome.  Well, think again.  If you thought things were pretty ridiculous before, the sequel kicks it up a notch.

To recap quickly, my car was lacking heat, so I got the thermostat replaced, then the car started overheating, which I determined was caused by a large frog stuck in the cooling fan.  Then, the car started overheating again, which I determined was the fan blades separating from the fan motor.  When we left off, I was going to save myself hundreds of dollars by installing the fan myself.  Silly me.

To start the task off right, I begin working on the car in the late afternoon on a weekday instead of first thing in the morning on a weekend.  You know, giving yourself a few hours with no backup plan for the next day is the proper way to work.  And I got to disassembling and removing all the pieces involved.  That only took about half an hour, which is reasonable.

What became unreasonable very quickly was how many hoses and wires were secured to the fan assembly and additionally, how little space was gained by removing everything I did.  There simply was not enough space to get the fan out.  Not without removing the front bumper, that is.  And is that what I wanted to start with the sun going down?  No.  So I put everything back together for the night.

One of the pieces that I had to take out was the ECU, which is the brains of the car.  After I got done reassembling everything, I planned to give the car a quick start to reset everything.  The reason for that is when you disconnect the ECU, there is some recalibration that the engine has to do on first startup.  But, for whatever reason, I got distracted and didn’t remember until after it was dark outside.

When I did remember, I tried to start the car and it was dead.  The warning lights were lit up everywhere and the gas gauge didn’t move.  Well, this is a wonderful turn of events.  It’s now dark out, I have to go to bed to go to work tomorrow and I have no working vehicle.  I wondered if I somehow fried the ECU while I was working on it.  If so, that’s the end of this car.  But I can’t think about that now.  I have to get to work tomorrow.

I go online and get a rental car for a week.  The next morning, I use Uber for the first time to get to the rental office.  Days go by and I finally return to the car to find out what’s wrong.  My primary thought was that I reversed the plugs to the ECU and I hoped that didn’t ruin it.  When I dug down into the car and got to the ECU, I discovered you can’t mix up the plugs in any way.  So now what?  I posted a question on a car forum asking for help and the unanimous response was, dead battery or bad battery connections.

The next day, I pulled the battery and charged it up (from 95% to 100%, so I doubted that was the problem).  When I went to reinstall the battery, I looked at the terminal clamps.  The negative clamp had a thick layer of corrosion around the inside of it.  It wasn’t noticeable from the outside, but clearly it was interfering with the electrical connection.  A quick effort with some sandpaper cleared that up right away and boom, the car started right up.  I’m back in business!

I decide to make the most of my car rental and drive it for the remainder of the week.  Monday, I returned the rental and got back to the house.  I started up my car and headed out to lunch.  A few miles down the road, the engine starts overheating.  Not a problem, I crank the heat and fan like I normally do to cool it down.  But no heat is coming out, and the temperature is climbing very quickly.

I make a quick decision to head back home and since I can’t make it back before the engine would seriously overheat, I stopped in a parking lot to let it cool down.  Since I can’t get any heat from the engine, I make the diagnosis that I introduced some air into the system while I had all the hoses disconnected.  That would prevent the coolant from circulating into the heater core.  Once I got the car home and let it cool, I could “burp” the system and get the air out.

Mid afternoon (again), I start the burping process.  I add some water into the reservoir and begin.  But still, no heat before the engine begins overheating.  I check the reservoir and it’s empty again.  I add more water.  And more water.  Where did all the coolant go?  I hear it gurgling.  Then, with reservation, I look under the car and see where all the coolant is going.  On the ground.

I don’t remember missing any hoses when I was putting everything back together, but I checked anyway to see if there were any loose connections.  There was one.  Except it wasn’t loose, it was snapped off.  Apparently when I was yanking on the fan assembly, trying to get it out, I snapped off one of the connections to the radiator.  The reality hit me like a sack of money.  Now I had to buy a new radiator.  That’s it.  I give up.  I call and reserve another rental car.  Get another Uber ride to get the car.  Then I broke down and called a mechanic to replace the radiator and install the cooling fan.

Let’s now summarize how much money I saved by doing this work myself.  Initially, I was estimating $700 to have a dealer replace the fan.  I bought a replacement fan for $150.  I was confused by a bad battery connection and spent $300 on a rental car for a week.  The new radiator and install is about $900.  Plus my second rental car, which will be about $150.  Plus towing the car to the mechanic, maybe $50.  It will literally cost me more than twice as much to do this myself.

As it turned out, my insurance’s roadside assistance considers rendering your car inoperable in your own driveway a valid roadside assistance request, so my tow was free.  I got the call from the mechanic the same day that my car was ready, but the rental office was closed, so I just planned to pick it up the next day after work.  The bill was actually less than I was quoted, so I assume they found the radiator cheaper than it was estimated.

I was able to drive all the way to work with no overheating and AC on, so I think it was a successful fix.  The AC is hissing now, so I think I’ll need to pick up a recharge kit and… wait a minute.  $50-some dollars for a recharge kit and the chance for me to ruin something else, or $100 to have a professional recharge it.  I think I’ve finally learned my lesson here.

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