year ago at this time I was “stranded” in Hawthorne, California
with My McVansion. It was a trying time. As you may recall, I was on
my way from Clovis (Fresno), California where I spent Christmas and
the changing of the year with my former mother-in-law, brother and
sister-in-law, my nephews and niece and my son and my former wife,
was a bit of a special time for me since it was the first time all of
us had actually spent a Christmas together in 25 years. For me, that
was a really nice Christmas present. Unfortunately, I didn't know
what new “adventure” was awaiting me when I would leave Clovis on
January 5, 2015.
had just had the van hand-washed and an exterior detailing job done.
It looked pretty. I had two new tires mounted on the rear of the van.
I took off heading over the mountains from the central valley of the
Golden State and as I was climbing to the Tejon Pass on I-5 heading
to the LA area to visit my son at his place . . . My McVansion
suffered a “heart attack.” Yes! The heart of my condo on wheels
blew halfway up the mountain to the pass.
I could get the engine to run again. It was pretty noisy and had no
power. I limped at an average of 10 to 15 mph over the mountain,
through the San Fernando Valley and to the South Bay area, Hawthorne,
to be precise, where my son lived. I drove on the shoulder of I-5. It
was a very long and tedious drive, never knowing when and where the
engine may completely die. But, I made it.
I was, about 2,800 miles from my familiar home territory and my
mechanic of 25 years. But, then the greatest thing happened. I went
on line searching for a place to look over the engine and determine
the situation, and, of course, break the bad news I was expecting. I
found a place in Hawthorne, only about two or three miles from my
son's place, by the name of One-Stop Engine Rebuilding.
called and I reached a gentleman by the name of Wilson. And a
gentleman he was. We chatted by phone and he told me to bring the van
over the next day for an “examination” and “diagnosis.” I
did, and as I suspected, the news was not good. But, thankfully, all
was not hopeless and My McVansion wasn't terminal.
found a cracker jack, top drawer team of automotive engine
technicians, all certified by the ASE. They were courteous, careful,
knowledgeable and highly skilled with a reputation that preceded
them. Wilson, the owner and leader of the team of “surgeons”
couldn't have been a nicer person to work with. He was honest and
always in control. He also had a wonderful personality and sense of
father had started in the engine rebuilding business in the '80's.
Although he had suffered a stroke, he was still active in the
business. Wilson also had a brother who worked with them. The rest of
the team were terrific, too. I couldn't have asked for a nicer bunch
of people to work with and handle this problem for me.
the photo at the top of the article, Wilson is the second from the
right. There are two other members of the team who are not pictured,
they were not available when I took this photo.
took the engine out of My McVansion, stripped it down, steam cleaned
everything, replaced specific vital components with new ones,
machined and made sure anything that could be re-installed was
perfect. Here you see My McVansion's “heart” re-installed after
being rebuilt into the next best thing to a new engine. They were
terrific and allowed me back in the shop throughout the entire
process to see everything they were doing. Even though I had studied
automotive technology in the mid 1960's a lot had changed. They gave
me a good understanding of the modern V8 engine and what makes it
the engine was rebuilt and installed back in the van's “chest
cavity,” it was a thing of beauty. It ran perfectly. Well,
perfectly except for a problem with overheating exhaust manifolds.
That presented a new can of worms. With a like new engine that ran
like it had just come out of the engine factory, this wasn't right.
wouldn't release the van to me this way. He now realized that the
demon that had caused the problem in the first place, was still
dwelling somewhere in the engine or something connected to the
engine. He also knew that if he released it to me, it wouldn't be
very long before this demon would create the same conditions and the
engine would blow again. Wilson, in his collaborative and
communicative way explained, even though everything about the engine
was running to factory specifications, my engine didn't display the
typical reasons engines fail when they are brought to him.
explained that most engines he receives and works on come with no oil
in the crankcase or no coolant in the cooling system and sometimes
both. My engine's coolant was perfect and so was my oil and the
levels of both were to factory specifications. Whatever it was was,
for him and his team, an anomaly. Here, again, is something I admire
and am very happy about. Wilson refused to give up until he found the
problem and resolved it.
this a huge inconvenience to me? It sure was. I ended up imposing on
my son's hospitality for two months. But, my son was great and,
frankly, we hadn't spent that much time together in almost 12 years.
So, it was an unexpected gift/blessing for me. But, it was also a
major inconvenience to Wilson and his team. He had limited space and
bays to work on other customers' vehicles. Now, he had this one
behemoth van taking up much needed space. Not to mention he hadn't
charged me a dime, so far.
long last, his perseverance paid off. He tried everything he and the
team could think of. Then he finally consulted an automotive
“neurosurgeon” who found this tiny gremlin hiding deep inside one
of the engine systems. The system was replaced and, viola, EVERYTHING
was perfect finally. He road tested it and then had me road test it
for a few days. Happy! Happy! Happy! Finally, the van was no longer
blocking his space.
presented me with the final costs and, as I stated in the beginning,
Wilson is a gentleman and honest. The bill was exactly as he said it
would be. He added nothing on for all the extra time he and his team
had to continue working on it. The only thing he added on was the
cost of the automotive “neurosurgeon's” services finding and
fixing the elusive gremlin.
if you're ever in the LA area and have engine problems with your
vehicle – van, car, pick-up, SUV (I don't think he can tackle a
larger RV, but you can always ask him) and you have an engine
problem, I can HIGHLY recommend and commend One-Stop Engine
Rebuilding as the first place to call and take your vehicle. Fair
prices. Honest people. Certified technicians. Stand behind their
work. Courteous. Friendly. Can you really ask for more?
engine now has 12,000 miles on it and is performing perfectly
(although I still knock on wood as I write this - who's
superstitious?). It's about ready for its next oil change and I'll be
switching over to synthetic oil, my preferred kind of oil for all my
vehicles for the past 40 years.
while I'm still here in the east. I plan to make my way to visit with
Wilson and the team when I get back into the LA area. Never lose a
valued contact and connection when you're a nomadic traveler. Live
free and be happy. EH