Friday, April 11, 2014

Automotive Literacy

Nothing gives me a case of what Mark Twain called "the fantods" faster than car trouble.Two weeks ago I had a terrible case of it after my Toyota truck started sputtering as we drove down White Bridge Road to go to work at the night clinic at The Little Big House. Sputtering is one thing, but lurching and flashing the check engine light is something else.

I feared an automotive Chernobyl. Would the car die and stall out as we merge just in front of a semi coming on at ninety? Would it explode like cars do in Jerry Bruckenheimer films? Would I get to work on time?

The truck got me home the next morning after I spent the night in a funk. One of my co-workers was a man, and I drilled him for answers about cars. But he was involved with motorcycles and could give me no answers. And as I drove home I not only still seeing the flashing engine light, I found it impossible to get the truck to go faster than thirty.

I did not have to work for another two weeks, but I ended up under house arrest because I was down to $120.00 and could not afford to get it fixed until some money blew my way, which it would do in another ten days.

My truck and I have always been amicable, and never has he stranded me on the side of the road. I know how to get in, how to get out, and how to throw trash into the bed, the back seat and the front. I know how to turn the key and turn the lights on. I know the truck has a front and back, but I cannot remember where to find the flashers.

A concerned friend, trying to help, told me to go out and check the oil with some kind of stick. I knew the oil was in the front somewhere, and that I had to open the lid with some kind of lever that was inside the car. I started pulling levers and pushing buttons, then I got out to see if I could pry the lid open. I could not remember if it opened from the top or bottom. The top seemed unlikely since it was attached to the windshield, so I tried the bottom. It lifted an inch or two then quit.

I gave up then.

I know women who can change tires, but I do not want to know how. I pay others to do it. In a Toyota Tundra it is a terrible thing. It means having to remove an old computer, trashed mail and the dog steps from the back seat so you can pull the seat up or down(I do not remember which) just to find some metal rod thing. This rod goes into some sort of pulley under the back of the truck and you have to turn it and turn it to get the spare tire down from some hidden compartment to a place where the wrecker man can take it out.

There is a jack in there too, but do not ask me where it is. When the jack appears I go the front for I do not want to be near any part of a truck that is lifted in the air.

Today I delivered the truck to the Car Care Center. I was terrified. Would it be the dreaded Catalytic convertor?($2000.00) or the engine ($8000.00). Would I have to go to the loan sharks to pay for it? What if it could not be fixed?

In the end it cost 800 dollars, which seemed like a bargain compared to the alternatives.

The problem was with the coils they told me, and with the spark plugs. Two coils in fact.

The invoice they gave me looked like a cable bill. I recognized a few things. They had replaced the windshield wipers for free, apparently, but which was a good thing since they had been ground down to stubs.

And I learned another new thing- that spark plugs need little boots for their little spark plug feet, and that these boots cost 16 bucks a piece, and that I had paid for 129 dollars worth.

This is a good garage, and they depend on people like me for business for if everyone shopped at Auto Zone and did their own repairs the garages' work would plummet .

There are automotive literates out there-

And there are the automotive idiots- Like me.

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