Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Describing Difficult Procedures

Lately, I've been working on my 1972 Alfa Romeo GTV. What I've learned about project management seems to evaporate into red mist in my garage. Currently, as part of changing my fuel system from the wonderful yet arcane SPICA mechanical fuel injection to the elegant and infinitely adjustable Weber carburetor, I am pulling the head off the twin overhead cam beast.

The head pulling process is described in the Alfa Romeo Giulia Owners Workshop Manual thusly:

"Remove the head nuts and the two screws fixing the front cover to the head, then lift off the head."

As it represents the official, legally vetted process described by the vendor, the above advice can be called "the standard."

Pat Braden's definitive "Alfa Romeo's Owner's Bible" describes the procedure thusly:

"The head bolts should be loosened incrementally following a spiral from the center out. Work slowly around the engine double-checking that everything is removed before trying to lift the head free. Typically, the head won't come free."

This passage is followed by several paragraphs of recommended procedures for freeing the stuck head, including "factory tool" and "rope trick." Having been codified in book, written by an expert, these are clearly "best practices."

On the Alfa Bulletin Board, a search on "head removal" will generate a multiple page jeremiad of head pulling frustration and anxiety. Tools as diverse as crow bars, bottle jacks, concrete rust remover and improvised pullers are deployed to extract head from block. Results vary. I'll call this "how things happen in real life."

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