I Can Fix That Car Myself

by WR Jones

2003vette.jpg  Lisa’s story and near tragedy brought back memories of my own car repair experiences.   Not as dramatic to be sure, but illuminating a much higher level of  incompetence. 

    As a teenager, all my friends worked on cars.  They worked on the engines and the bodies.  I never had any interest in autos other than to get me from place to place out of the rain.  This is perhaps a little strange as I ended up spending my adult life as an engineer. 

    When I reached young adulthood, just out of the university, I bought a Datsun 510.   One day it started running rough so I wheeled into the nearest filling station.  In those days just about every gas station would do at least minor tune ups.  I picked the car up the next day and found it ran even rougher.  The car seemed fairly simple to work on so I went to a book store for a book on car repair.  When I finished with my first attempt at a tune up the car no longer ran rough; it didn’t run at all.  I had to push it to the dealer just down the block.  I paid a second time to have the car fixed and as I was about to drive out of the dealer’s lot one of the mechanics said to me, “Look here young man,  I understand if you don’t want to bring the car back to us as we are expensive, but for God’s sake, don’t ever let the person who worked on it last touch it again.”

   I heeded that advice for several years, then forgot it.  I was living in Ventura when the same car started running rough again.  Feeling the passing years might have given me new mechanical abilities I tried to tune it again.  After replacing the points and plugs and adjusting the timing, it still ran bad. 

    I had a teenage neighbor who suggested I rebuild the carburetor; that was what it needed he said.   When I told him I didn’t think I had the necessary skills, he said it was a piece of cake you just needed to buy a carburetor kit and follow the instructions.  

    With grave misgivings I bought the kit and then spent hour after hour on the kitchen floor taking that carburetor apart and putting it back together, sort of.  After I felt enough time had passed to complete the job, I had two leftover parts, a spring and someother little dodad.  Interestingly enough, the car now ran very smooth, purred like a kitten.  I took it for a test drive from Ventura to Camarillo, a distance of about 10 miles each way.  As I was pulling into the driveway after the drive, I looked at the gas tank.  In a drive of 20 miles I had gone through an entire tank of gas.  I had to buy more gas just to drive to the dealer to get my car fixed again.  Words really can’t do justice to the feeling a man (ok so I knit a little) has when he has to go to a real mechanic with left over parts in his hand and ask, “Uh, er, do you know where these things go?”

    They didn’t even try to put back my two little left overs; just made me buy a new carburetor.

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