Over a month ago now my 1994 Jeep Wrangler broke down. The clutch bottomed out on my way home and I ended up enlisting the help of my dad to push the Jeep the rest of the way home.
In the meantime I recieved some feedback on what could be the problem from some folks that work in the garage at Mercedes, as well as an old co-worker from my engineering job in Columbus.
They all suspected the slave cylinder, which pressurizes the clutch pedal, had gone bad and that I could probably fix the problem myself. I was up to the task, and even bought the $93 part before lifting the hood. Unfortunately, I eventually came to find out (before doing any work) there was no leak in the slave cylinder. The problems were buried inside the transmission. And by the time a professional took a crack at the repairs I was out $1,300.
What I had to show for the repairs was a new clutch, pressure plate, and catalytic converter. I also have more peace of mind driving this old Jeep with a new clutch and have put together two couple hundred mile road trips on the odometer since the repairs.
Car savy folks will key in on the catalytic converter as an emissions related item. Cars registered on the shores of Lake Erie in one of seven counties near Cleveland are subjected to bi-annual emission checks for legal vehicle registration.
Though this is a state level EPA program, it's really just a Cleveland thing.
I had to get a new catalytic converter because apparently, at some point in the last 23 years, the one in my Jeep had been removed. Catalytic converters were at one point a hot item to steal because they include small amounts of rare metals, such as platinum. At one point in 2008, platinum was trading for $2,270 an ounce! Today platinum is trading at $930.80 an ounce.
Equipped with my new catalytic converter I was confident I was going to pass the "e-check" this time around. I had failed back in April due to the high NOx reading resulting from my missing piece.
On test day, without even thinking about it, I mentioned to the lane attendant that I was also missing my gas cap. The last time I was at the "e-check" location I saw a sign that stated one would be provided to me if available (read the last sentence in the picture below).
To my surprise, the lane attendant I handed my keys to told me they could not give me a gas cap because my Jeep had already passed the gas cap portion of the emissions test. When the manager came over I assured them both that infact my gas cap was missing and therefore could not pass.
This time the manager insisted the Jeep already passed on a previous test.
So here we all are, citizen and civil servants, grappling with an issue that was created for the environment's benefit.
I wasn't out to get a free lunch, just a gas cap. And I was willing to pay. He could name the price, really.
So I ask, "Do you have a gas cap for a 1994 Jeep Wrangler?"
The manager replies, "Yes."
"Can I buy it from you?"
The manager says, "No."
(Dramatic expression) "You have got to be kidding me! Let's just do the rest of the test then and I'll go home without a gas cap."
"Sir we cannot test your vehicle without a gas cap!"
I'm not making this up, he literally said that. They cannot test a car without a gas cap. But in order to get a free gas cap the car has to fail the test. Because the car had passed previously, I could neither fail the gas cap test, nor take the remaining emissions tests (because I did not have a gas cap!)
This is real.
I then had to drive off to the nearest AutoZone (without a gas cap) to get this Jeep running by the book.
In the end the experience was too bizarre to be a reflection of the employees I was working with. The problems run much deeper.
All I can do is wonder, IF this program exists to protect the environment, why can't I buy the gas cap they have in stock?