I noticed on the speedometer that is was getting close to the magic “time to replace the timing belt” on the engine. A call to the friend that gave it to me confirmed it was only about 800 miles from the scheduled replacement.
The timing belt ensures the various parts of the engine are synchronized properly. If this synchronization is lost, say due to the timing belt breaking, the pistons will slam up into other parts of the engine. The easiest, and often least expensive, way to fix the resulting damage is to replace the engine. It’s much easier to replace the timing belt than to replace the engine.
Normally the timing belt replacement is a bit of a chore because the radiator is just enough in the way to be annoying…(lay under the car do some work, get up, stretch over the car, do some work, get back under the car, do some work, get up, stretch over the car, do some work, etc.) We decided to do the job 800 miles early since the radiator (and condenser and grill) are missing at the moment.
With everything out of the way there was no need to perform calisthenics; just sit on a stool and work. She was able to finish the work in about 2 hours.