Get your motor running -- 02/25/07

[Today's entry inspired by Louphoria who has just bought her first car.]

Ah, the joys of the open road... and the joys of car ownership...

I'm sure you all remember your first car. I know I remember mine!


Get your motor running
Head out on the highway
Looking for adventure
In whatever comes our way.
      Steppenwolf: Born to be Wild
    You were no longer tied down to one place... you could just jump behind the wheel and take off, heading down that highway, looking for adventure...

Of course then comes filling the gas tank, oil changes, tune-ups, new tires, state inspection, insurance payments, registration fees...

I'm not sure if I wrote about it here -- I thought I had but I don't see it when I look back through my 2006 entries -- but I had an automotive problem last year.

At one point during the winter there was a bad smell in my car. I checked the interior all over -- no hidden remains of a fast food lunch -- no, not my lunch, but since I mostly work from home, my car is generally available if Gillian or Jeremy need to borrow a car for the day while their car is being serviced. They could give a friend a ride from campus and perhaps a forgotten hamburger was decaying under a seat. Nope. Nothing there. Eventually the smell went away (mostly) and then came summer and I couldn't turn the fan above the low speed setting without a dreadful banging sound as if the fan were coming apart and was flinging its pieces about. I took it to the local repair shop we generally use....

I had a petrified rodent mummy in my fan housing. We have a two car garage but naturally half of the garage is filled with bicycles and trash bins and a wheelbarrow and a lawn mower and garden tools and snow shovels and... well, you get the idea. Since Nancy is the one who has to leave for work every morning (September through June), she gets to keep her car inside the garage so it is easier to start in the morning and she doesn't have to scrape ice off her windshield, etc. I get to part in the driveway in front of the other garage door, the one on the storage area side. Apparently a mouse sought shelter under the hood of my car.

They suggested at the repair shop that I should sprinkle some moth flakes under the hood. They claimed that will drive them away. They also told me about a customer who ended up spending almost two thousand dollars on repairs to her car because mice chewed up all of the wiring in her car's electric system.

I didn't do anything. This was a really unlikely event -- in more than four decades of car ownership I had never had a problem with mice under the hood of my car. I'd never even heard of such a thing.

Okay, you see where this is going, don't you?

My car was stalling a lot during some of the really cold days we had earlier in February... but then when the weather got a bit milder, it still had a tendency to stall at stop lights and stop signs unless I kept a little extra pressure on the gas pedal. Well, I was probably about due for a tune-up anyway, so I took it into the shop and asked for a tune-up and also ask them to check out this tendency to stall.

They phoned me an hour or so later... "Mr. Lawrence, you have another dead rat."

This one, it seemed, had shredded my air filter (perhaps to make a nest?) and had made a bit of a mess before shuffling off his mortal coil.

I stopped in a store to look for moth flakes but could only find boxes of moth balls. So I bought a box, figuring a few minutes with a hammer could turn them into flakes.

However, I had another problem with the car -- the door handle mechanism on the driver's door broke. The key would unlock it, but the handle just moved without disengaging the latch so the door would open. I had to get in the passenger side and reach over to open the driver's door.

Ah, but who has a son who is majoring in automobile technology at New England Tech.? Why yes... that would be me.

So I ask Jeremy for advice on the malfunctioning door -- did he think something was broken or was it just something having slipped out of alignment?

He told me that it was probably broken and that he could fix it.

So he pulled my car into the garage Friday afternoon (yes, into Nancy's side of the garage -- she wasn't home at the time) and proceeded to take my door apart.
It was indeed a broken rod in the door handle mechanism. (Photo on the left: this is the view from the outside of the door showing the opening where the door handle had been.)

So he went off to the nearest Toyota dealership (about 15 miles away) to order the part. The clerk looked up the part and told him "We usually need a color code for that part." Jeremy was prepared and handed an index card where he had written down the color code (so the color of the handle will match the color of the car).
The order was entered into the computer system. The part would arrive the next morning.

So... early Saturday morning I set off to pick up the part.

"Oh, yeah, well it seems they had some kind of trouble with the computer in the Boston warehouse last night so we didn't get most of our order. Your part was one of the ones we didn't get. We don't get parts delivered on Monday but don't worry, your part should be here on Tuesday."

(Photo: a view of the inside of my door.)

So... I'm not worried about mice because my car is in the garage... which is patrolled by Tiger on a daily basis. Normally having my car unavailable (well, I guess in theory I could drive it, but...) would not be a problem since there are many days when it just sits in the driveway all day while I sit here in my den working. Tomorrow, however, I have a doctor's appointment in the morning, so I guess I'll drive Nancy to work so I can use her car and then pick her up after work in the afternoon.

[Yes, there are stains on the floor of our garage. So... someday I'll scrub the floor and paint it, but it isn't exactly high on my list of things to do.]

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