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Life Arts

Days of Our Repair

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                              by Walter Brasch


          The car died. Just choked, sputtered, and died right there on the highway.

            So, we had it towed back to the house where our oldest son declared he would fix it and save the cost of taking it to a garage. "If given enough time, I can fix anything," he declared. "It's just a process of elimination."

            On the first day of elimination, he checked the battery, all fluids, the rocker arm gaskets, then took off all the belts, hoses, and wires, massaged them, and replaced the ones that looked worn out. And then he swore.

            On the second day, he replaced sparkplugs and set the gap, checked the hoses and wires, and called in reinforcements.

            Mark, his best friend, knows nothing about cars, but lives close by, and always has a good-looking broken down car. Collins works on high voltage telephone trans -formers. They bent over the motor, hmmmmmmm-ed a few times, took everything out, put everything back in, and then decided the problem was the carburetor. That afternoon, they cleaned the air filter, screen, cover, jets, and choke. They could tell anyone the history of carburetors, including the fact that the inventor was French who had based it on a perfume atomizer. But they couldn't get the car running again.

            So, they concluded the problem was a bad module. Now, the module, which regulates the spark and timing, breaks down maybe once every decade. But once you decide it's the module, then it has to be the module. So, they bought a new module, carefully put it in, started the car and heard   . . . absolute -ly nothing but a horrible whirring and grinding sound. Just like the whirring and grinding they had heard when the car died.

            "Parts store sold us a bad module," they uniformly declared.

             That afternoon, they exchanged the new "bad" module, and triumphantly put in the replacement. Whirrrr   and grind   were all they heard.

            "Take it to the garage," my wife and I suggested.

            "I can fix anything, no matter how long it takes," my son testily replied.

            On the third day, they brought in Brian. Brian was studying auto mechanics at a community college. He took everything apart, put it all back together, and declared, "It's broken."

            "Maybe it's in the electrical system," said Mark, "but I don't know what to do with it." I reminded Mark that he had been a Navy electrician. "I was a   marine electrician," he declared.

            "Then take it to the river and float it," I suggested.

            On the fourth day of repair, the team drained the oil pan, and put in new oil and an oil filter. It didn't fix the car. They knew it wouldn't, but said it needed it anyhow.

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www.walterbrasch.com

Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist and professor of journalism emeritus. His current books are Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution , America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of Constitutional (more...)
 
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I always found they hooked you for a new battery w... by Margaret Bassett on Sunday, Dec 12, 2010 at 9:55:15 AM
Many automotive systems have gaskets which erode i... by martin weiss on Sunday, Dec 12, 2010 at 4:12:24 PM