Preparing the Mustang to drive 5100 miles
From 13-May through 22-May
The piece of equipment that’s arguably most critical to a long-distance raodtrip is the car itself. Without the car… well, obviously it’s important. You can’t drive anywhere if you don’t have something to drive.
So I got the oil changed – full fancy synthetic oil and everything.
I brought it to the dealership; had them give it the full inspection, and make sure that all the bits and bobs were in the right places, and would last me through the entire trip. They ended up just replacing the battery, saying that everything else was in good shape. I didn’t completely believe them, but I guess time and distance will tell whether they were right or not.
That was all nice and lovely and simple. Low-stress repairs and preparations are what I enjoy… but unsurprisingly, they weren’t the only things I had to deal with before I drove out of Massachusetts.
I’d spent Wednesday with my Grandma, having a nice lunch and seeing the Hukusai exhibit at the Museum of Fine Art. It had gone well, even though the day had started pretty rough when I’d miss-judged when the street cleaning was, and my poor car had gotten towed away 🙁 But everything was going well since then, and we were driving quietly down Route 2, back toward dinner with my Mom.
And then, a plastic bag was in the road in front of me.
Obviously, I didn’t particularly worry about it. Since… you know… plastic bag.
And the bag itself didn’t do anything, I’m sure. But the bricks or rocks or something solid inside the bag… well, that smashed the car up something fierce.
“Is everything ok, Ben?” My grandma asked. I could hear something scraping and grinding under the car.
“It’s fine Grandma, though I’ll have to pull over to see what’s struck under the car…”
When we finally found a spot to pull off the highway, nearly two miles had gone by where all I could hear was the grinding and scraping from the front end. And when I got down under the car to check, my fears were confirmed: the font air deflector, the part of the bumper that stops grit and dust from getting into the engine, was torn nearly clean off.
That was the sound I’d been hearing – the deflector grinding against the pavement, being held on by two heavy bolts near the back.
So I pulled it off, and we went and had dinner.
The next day, I called a few body shops, but none of them could do the work before my planned departure date… none of them could even do it within a week of that day! But I did get one stroke of luck; one shop gave me the number of a dealership that could order it next day, though I’d have to install it myself…
So I called them. I confirmed the price ($180, which was cheaper than the $200 that the internet showed me). I confirmed the part (the front air deflector, the big plastic piece with the front clips and the two bolts in the back). I confirmed the delivery (Friday, between 9:00 and 11:00). I confirmed that they’d call me as soon as it was in (they promised that they would, and took my number). Everything was set, and I went back to packing and getting everything ready.
Then Friday comes. I call them back at 1:00 PM, asking whether UPS has come in yet. It had, of course, so I rushed out to pick up the part and get it bolted right up.
When I step into the parts shop, they’re mostly empty – advantage of a holiday weekend, I guess… but this put me at ease; not something I’m used to, when dealing with cars. So I got a little paranoid, even when they said that they had the part right in back, and went to bring it to me.
Well… they weren’t wrong. They did have a part in back. But it wasn’t the one that I ordered; it wasn’t even close to the price that they’d quoted on the phone the day before. Instead of ordering the primary deflector, they’d ordered the accessory air splitter that bolts to the main deflector. An important part, to be sure… but not a completely necessary one. Which is why I hadn’t bothered them to order it in the first place.
So they typed away at the computer. Looked up diagrams and schematics, parts inventories and store listings. They found me a store that had a main deflector in stock, just 19 miles away.
But those 19 miles take a long time during Memorial Day… and it was a solid hour later that I pulled into my second dealership of the day.
But it seemed that I wasn’t the only person who was tired that day, since I woke up the old gentleman sitting behind the parts counter. After explaining who I was, and that the other dealership had just called him, and that yes it was really me, he did walk back into his labyrinth to pull the part out.
Once he had it, and he brought it over, was when the fun began. See… Ford doesn’t attach the hardware to the part – it comes separate. I’d made the dangerously incorrect assumption that a dealership would stock enough nuts and bolts to install whatever equipment they happen to have on hand. Or… you know… that the parts guy would be able to at least read the installation manual enough to know what those parts even are.
Well, they don’t, and he couldn’t.
So after three trips trying out different size bolts, I called up the original dealership to find out what size I should be getting. A size that, it turned out, he had! But it didn’t have a washer, so it slipped right through the plastic part.
So we put on another washer… still to small. So we put on a second washer.
And then I finally installed it! Under his watchful eye, reminding me every few minutes that they wanted to close soon.
And then, they billed me extra for “specialty” parts.
But, at the end of the day, the car was finally ready to go. All the parts were installed, all the fluids topped off, and all the things that should be checked had been checked. Everything that could be done, had been done. Now all that was left was to make the drive…