Man vs. Machine VI "The Resurrection" / by Brian Beck

To my surprise, Man vs. Machine VI rolled out of Pasadena on Friday afternoon. After completing all the repairs that spelled an early end to Man vs. Machine V (brakes, rear wheel bearings, new tires, rebuilt power steering pump), I started shaking the car down in May, assuming I’d have plenty of time to beta-test all the new parts before hitting the road again. It was time well spent, because I noticed a drip of coolant on the floor after one of my evening runs and traced it back to a leaking radiator. I took it to a respected shop in Paso Robles in mid-June and begged him to have it back to me before our scheduled departure date. He met the date, and I got the radiator back in the car almost a week early. But then, disaster struck.

On a test drive after installing the rebuilt radiator, I noticed a slight slip in the transmission. Or did I? Maybe it was my imagination, but I checked the fluid level and it was too high. After another run, it was too low. It proceeded like this for much of an evening until finally the car would barely move. Puzzled and exasperated, I slowly came to the conclusion that something catastrophic in the transmission had failed.

“Better in my driveway than central Utah,” I thought, so with only several days to spare, I pulled the transmission and began a rebuild, expecting to find broken parts or obvious signs of failure. After many hours and with parts scattered across my garage, having identified no obvious defect, I reassembled the parts and put the transmission back in the car “just in case”, but fully expecting that our 2019 road trip would be made in our Honda. Once it was back on the road, however, it ran better that ever. Transmissions can be finicky like that, especially ones eligible for AARP. There was plenty of debris in the filter and one little piece lodged in the wrong place can wreak havoc. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and notwithstanding some trepidation at not having identified a clear problem, we departed fully loaded on Friday for Yellowstone.

Man vs Machine VI is just out and back this time—two days driving to Jackson Hole, two days there, then on to Yellowstone for four days with our friends the Oehmkes, then straight back to Pasadena. Last time we packed four national parks into the same space of time, so this time I’m trying to keep it simple. What could possibly go wrong?

Digging into the guts of a transmission is not for the faint at heart. It’s the automotive equivalent of brain surgery. iPhone XR.

Digging into the guts of a transmission is not for the faint at heart. It’s the automotive equivalent of brain surgery. iPhone XR.