Stopped and got gas in Owatonna. As I left and turned back onto the freeway, I heard what sounded like a nasty scraping sound. I figured it was built-up ice, but it sounded a bit more metallic than what I expected. Nothing seemed the worse for wear, so I just kept going.
About 30 miles north of Des Moines, I heard it again. And it was about then I noticed that my battery indicator was way on the low side. It struck me then that my alternator was hosed, and I figured the 'Sploder would be running out of juice sometime soon. However, everything was fine the rest of the way home.
I turned into the apartment complex, and noticed that there was a tremendous noise on every left turn. Suck city. Pulled into the rental office lot and opened the hood to see if I could identify that it was actually the alternator.
The belt was really loose. Curious.
Then I noticed the idler pully. There was about half of it left, and the belt wasn't tensioned at all.
I left the truck running and went in to get my packages-- then I drove to the parking area and backed the truck into a lucky prime spot and shut it down.
Into the apartment for tools and the cart.
The idler pulley was pretty easy to remove since there was no belt tension left. It took maybe 20 minutes, about half of which was me dropping the wrench and recovering it.
Got it removed-- the bearing had seized completely. This explained the horrendous metallic sound, as well as a bearing-burning sound that I've been hearing from the engine for a while but have been unable to pinpoint, and an odd burned plastic smell from recently.
Brought the pulley inside to see if I could do anything. All I really need is something that can work temporarily enough to get to the Auto Zone store tomorrow so I can get a new idler pulley and bearing.
Since the current bearing and pulley are pretty much hosed as-is, I figured it couldn't hurt to try and salvage what I could. Cleaned it up enough to find that the bearing race guard was completely destroyed and had jammed between one of the balls and the bearing race. It meant tearing the bearing apart which isn't usually good for a sealed bearing, but screw it.
Needle nose pliers. Yank, pull, twist, and eventually got a whole bunch of little pieces out. Only seven balls left in the bearing-- I figure either one or two got lost on the way, or the race guard actually spaced seven balls evenly.
Put the bearing back together. Had to make a new seal for one side, so I cut some thin aluminum from a soda can and trimmed it in place as much as I could. Added some white lithium grease to the interior of the bearing to help keep it somewhat mobile. It turns freely, though it's pretty rough.
Next, I cut a piece of plastic from a jar lid and punched a hole in the center to put a bolt through, tightened a nut down onto it, and put the whole thing in a drill chuck. A few minutes with an Xacto knife, and I had something approaching the side of a pulley. A few more minutes of shaping, and it was ready to go.
Next, epoxy. A metric buttload of epoxy. Building up the part of the pulley that had been burned off as well as gluing the new side in place.
I'm about to go and put this beast back on the engine. If it works, it might just save me the cost of a tow truck and several hours of lost work.
It will take me maybe 20 minutes tomorrow to get to Auto Zone. Wish me luck.
Edit: Success, at least partially. It's noisy as hell, and it looks like the mount is bent as well, so there will be more work than just replacing the pulley. But it works.