Art by mail: The story of the finicky bolt in La Pine

Message on postcard:
Hello Jason! This is the story of the afternoon I spent in La Pine, Oregon. But really the story begins the day before I was in La Pine, when I was camped up on Newberry Crater. It’s a big volcanic caldera that’s home to a couple of large lakes, some lava flows, a mountain called Paulina Peak, and lots of obsidian (useful in the construction of deadly arrowheads).  When I woke up in the morning I noticed a little green puddle of coolant under my engine compartment.

A little investigation revealed seepage from where a coolant hose connected to an aluminum coolant pipe. The pipe was loose and rubbing against my exhaust system. Well that was no good! The hose-to-coolant pipe connection was subject not only to the mechanical stresses of a rattling pipe, but presumably also an extra thermal load thanks to heat transfer from the exhaust. I have no idea if I used any of those terms correctly, but they all sound plausible to me, so let’s go with it.

Anyway, I snugged up a clamp on the leaky hose, and then I discovered that the metal coolant pipe is secured in place by means of a bracket that affixes the pipe to a mounting point in the engine block. And the bolt that connects the bracket to the block was straight-up missing! Zounds! So I grabbed some spare bailing wire and strung the tube in place until I could make it into town.

The next day I’m in La Pine, and I stop at the hardware store. I need a bolt and a washer. But what size? Using my patented “eyeball-o-metric assay” technique, I estimated and threw a dollar down on a gamble. And I lost. Fortunately, Ace Hardware has a reasonable return policy. After several trials, I was able to rule out 10 mm, 12 mm, and larger diameter bolts, so, yeah, okay, 8 mm it is. But what thread pitch? 1.50? 1.25? 1.00? Third time’s a charm. At this point the cashier just waves me through, preferring not to tally the four-cent differences in cost.

And then I installed the thing. Because the engine bay was full of hoses and sharp obstructions, this required me to squat over the engine with my hands plunged between my legs. The kind citizens of La Pine seemed to think I needed help, but they were wrong.

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