|Jinny has been very ill and is currently undergoing rehabilitation in a Bangor facility so she will not be writing her article for awhile. She is making excellent progress and hopes to be able to return to writing her column in the near future... Adele.
Have you ever heard that old axiom, "Nothing is ever simple."? Well, when it comes to anything having to do with automobile maintenance, it is invariably true. Nothing is ever simple. Even things that start out being ridiculously simple can suddenly turn so complicated that you end up wanting to hit yourself over the head with a socket wrench. When you are attempting to do seemingly simple maintenance on your car you might find yourself going through your entire collection of sockets or hex wrenches only to discover that you don't have the right size for the job. Car makers are notorious for selecting bizarre bolt sizes for things that would have been just fine with some ordinary and common bolt size. Even worse, you may have the right tool for the job but discover that the bolt is stripped, which makes your perfectly sized tool utterly useless anyway. Then there is the nightmarish possibility that whatever you remove will never go back where it belongs and fit right...ever...no matter what you do.
A short time ago I informed my 14 year old son, Chuck, that we were going to have to spend an entire weekend on car maintenance. Cars, I told him, just like houses, require winterizing. For Chuck, who defines 'work' as anything he does not want to do, a whole weekend spent working on the car was pretty much synonymous with a weekend of continuous root canals.
"You're kidding me, right?" He asked.
I informed him that his grandfather had been of the opinion that anyone who drives should only be allowed to do so if they possess a fundamental knowledge of how the vehicle works and the ability to perform, at the very least, rudimentary maintenance on it.
"So, what did you have to do, feed and water the horses and make sure the fringes on the surrey weren't frayed?" He inquired.
With that statement he pretty much bought himself a ticket to a lovely time on his back under the car checking for rust.
Due to my father's philosophy, I had helped him change the oil, change the plugs, wires, and belts, and change a tire long before I ever got behind the wheel. It turned out to be a darned good thing too, since on my very first date the tire on my escort's father's car went flat and he had no idea whatsoever how to change it. I did it. Needless to say, it was my first and last date with that particular young man.
I thought that once I had Chuck outside and explained exactly what we needed to do to the car he might find it more interesting. What a dreamer I can be. Being a wretched teenage person, He refused to show any enthusiasm whatsoever until he had spent at least a half hour punishing me by behaving in a manner that alternated between extreme boredom and stubborn disinterest. Once we got the hood open and began the job, he had more difficulty maintaining his standard, "I refuse to show any interest in any of this because if I do I will have to show interest in other things you say I have to do" act.
We began by putting in new plugs and wires. He asked me why we had to replace them both. He could see that the plugs needed changing but the wires looked perfectly fine. I told him that it was simply an unwritten rule of car maintenance that wires would be replaced along with plugs.
"What might happen if you didn't replace the wires?" He asked.
I informed him that not replacing the wires would cause the car to become so offended that it would deliberately konk out on us when we needed it the most, like when aliens were attacking and we have to flee the area.
"And there we will be," I told him, "sitting in the konked-out car screaming that we are all going to die while the car sits smugly and ignores our terror."
"Mom," said Chuck, "I think it may be possible that you have finally cracked. It's an inanimate object, not a Disney character."
"Not at all." I responded. "You see, cars are a lot like teenagers. They completely forget how you loved them and babied them and changed their oil for years and turn on you without provocation."
Chuck rolled his eyes. "Is this one of your bizarre moral metaphors, Mom?"
"Don't be ridiculous." I huffed. "It's all about automobile mojo. You'll understand when you have your own car someday. Just wait and see, before this job is finished the car will turn on us like a rabid badger."
And it did. When we went to fill up the windshield washer reservoir the vindictive vehicle decided that it wouldn't let the washers work, which was inexplicable given that they had worked just fine the day before. We had to drain the reservoir and remove the pump, getting soaked in deicing fluid in the process. It turned out that the pump was dead and had to be replaced. We drove to the parts store and the guy behind the counter handed me the new pump looking at me with sympathy. "Strange thing," he said, shaking his head sadly, "you hardly ever have to replace these pumps. It's never simple, is it?"