Friday, January 16, 2009

Chilly, dogs

This morning the thermometer reads -12°F. Wind chill is expected to approach -40°F.

Maybe folks in Glendive and Floodwood are accustomed to numbers like those. We're not.

Our spawns have a previously scheduled day off from school, but virtually every other district in the area is closed because of the cold. (Don't get me started.) The only out-of-doors task requiring me to "brave" the weather today will be refueling my Rentable before turning it in -- as expected, replacing my TrailBlazer's windshield didn't get done until late yesterday.

Beyond my doorstep, across the dormant fields and to the woods beyond, the scene is white and serene. Never mind the bitter cold -- that half-foot of powdery snow that fell Wednesday night has given us Nature's perfect winter postcard.

It also gave me a helluva workout yesterday morning.

As I prepared to plow the driveway before my wife left for work, I looked to see if the tire I'd repaired was holding air -- check. When I turned the tractor's ignition key, however, the starter let out with a screeching noise and the engine refused to crank or fire.

Curious as I was to find out why, diagnosis and repair would have to wait. I grabbed a snow shovel off the wall and tackled the job the old-fashioned way.

It took me a little over an hour to clear our 220-foot-long driveway. I'm grateful that this particular snowfall was of the light, dry variety, but really, I'm getting too old for this shit.

And where were the spawns while I was huffing and puffing? Nestled snug in their beds -- snow day, school canceled, sleep past noon. Natch.

With Mrs. KintlaLake on the road and my shovel back on its nail, I came back to the tractor. I pulled four bolts, lifted the blower housing off the engine, fixed my gaze on the point where the starter pinion engages the flywheel and turned the key.

The starter's armature shaft spun like crazy but the pinion didn't turn, and the inertial mechanism designed to mesh the small gear with the flywheel appeared to be on permanent vacation. The dogs were barking at each other, but they didn't seem to be interested in mating.

Exchanging several e-mails with the tractor's manufacturer confirmed what I suspected -- the starter drive had given up the ghost. With a special gear-pulling gizmo, I could replace just the drive assembly. Since I don't have the tool, I decided to go with a new starter.

While I would've preferred to buy the part over an honest-to-god counter close to home, I won't pay 45% more for the privilege. And having the work done locally, by the way, would've meant waiting up to a month (and writing an even bigger check, of course). No thanks.

So the starter is on its way (via USPS Priority Mail, dammit) from a supplier in Oregon, racing snow that's predicted to fall on our driveway Saturday night. Once the part gets here, installing it should be straightforward.

We'll see. If the work doesn't go smoothly -- or if the part doesn't arrive in time -- I may be in for another workout.