August 10, 2022

Which Life To Fix . . . by Brendon marks


While talking with an acquaintance few years ago, I mentioned that all of my lives were in turmoil, and he asked, “How many wives do you have?” Assuming that he had misunderstood, and ignoring all thoughts of how delighted Freud would have been to interview this person; I pressed on.

(Before I continue, I would like to state unequivocally that my one and only wife is not directly responsible for the turmoil in any of my lives.)

I watched for a flicker of interest as I enumerated each of my lives: Work life, home life, and so forth. At “Car Life”, the spark was there, and I elaborated.

At that time we had an adequate supply of vehicles. My wife had two cars, one work car and one fun car. I had two trucks, one small truck designed for folks who don’t need a truck and another full size truck in case we have to move our house farther from the property line. One spare each should be enough, but such was not the case.

It started when a universal joint, (we guys call them “u-joints”), went bad in my little truck. Big truck was parked ninety miles away, so our vehicle supply was instantly halved, but still no reason to panic. I could pick up the new u-joints on the way home from work and slap them babies in.

Before I was able to pick up the u-joints, my wife called me on her cell phone, (usually not a good sign). She said, “I’m almost home, but I just wanted to let you know the battery light in the car has been on ever since I left work.” Switch to plan B.

I went home, ran some level-1 diagnostics and concluded we had a bad alternator. I took the work car to the auto parts store and asked them to check the charging system and verify my diagnosis. They said, “Bad battery.”

I bought a new battery, (the price of which I will take to my grave), and installed it in the car right there in the parking lot. The auto parts guy said, “You know the light will stay on for about five hundred miles until your computer resets, don’t you?” I nod, but believe me; I never heard of such a thing. He was at least partly right. When I started the car again after replacing the battery the indicator light was still on. But I had a nagging feeling, so I sought out another parts guy with more visible signs of maturity and asked his opinion. He asked, “What year?” I told him.

He said, “No way.”

I said, “What now?”

He said, “Check again.”

We did.

He said, “Bad alternator.”

I concluded that parts guys communicate best in two-word sentences, and bought a new alternator. I also bought my new u-joints at the same time.

While standing in line at the cash register I looked out at the car and noticed I had a nearly flat tire. My tire store was closed so I drove the short distance home on the soft tire. Once there, a visual inspection revealed a bright, shiny nail firmly imbedded in the tread. I pumped the tire up just to see if it would hold pressure, mostly because I was in no mood to deal with it then. I concluded there was no urgency, and allowing it to stand overnight would be more conclusive.
I replaced the alternator, and, as you might guess, the battery light went out instantly.

Since things were going so well, I started working on my u-joints. The first thing I noticed was that the u-joints I bought were not the same type as the ones in the truck, so I went back to the parts store to explain. They readily exchanged them for ones of the correct type.

After removing the drive shaft from the truck, and the old u-joint from the yoke, I discovered my new u-joints are the right type, but were too big. The auto parts store was closed, so I was done for the night except to make sure that both my wife and I had drivable vehicles for the next day.

We agreed that she would take the fun car while I took the work car, (with the leaky tire). I would get the tire fixed and pick up the correct u-joints after work. (Again.)

My wife called me from work the next day and said, “The engine light came on about half-way to work and stayed on the whole way. Will it be all right to drive the car home tonight?”

Knowing that the fun car has gauges for all the major conditions that need monitoring, I asked, “What engine light?”
After some discussion we determined that it was the “Check Engine” light, that handy little light designed to alert the operator to any one of thousands of conditions that could cause the engine to either fall out or suddenly self-destruct.

There are many women in the world who know more about cars than I do, but my wife is not one of them, so I said, “It’s either the mass oxygen sensor, the float in the PCV valve, or the computer is suffering from overbyte. In any case, it will probably heal itself today unless you parked between two different makes of Japanese imports.”

She asked, “What can go wrong with a mass oxygen sensor?”

I said, “It can lose its ability to detect mass oxygen. Happens all the time. Wait a minute. Where did it first come on?”

“I was downtown, Van Buren and Seventh Avenue.”

“That’s it. There is no mass oxygen in that area. I heard it on the traffic report this morning.”

I agreed to meet her after work with a supply of all automotive fluids, and various potentially defective parts. That way we could accompany each other for the drive home, providing mutual support for whatever else might go wrong. The return trip was uneventful.

The next morning I replaced the u-joints on the truck while my wife took the car to have the tire repaired, thus my “car life” has returned to nearly normal. Now if I could only determine which life to work on next.

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