Monday, July 25, 2005

My Note to the Mechanic

So I was driving along in my Subaru Outback and the check engine light came on and I know what to do if the little oil lamp light comes on—pull over immediately or the engine will explode or something—and what to do if the little electrical thingy light comes on—drive straight to Goodyear without turning off the car because if you do it will be dead as a post and I’d have to call Triple A where if I get it to Goodyear I can just call Bob—but I didn’t know what to do if the check engine light came on. So I looked at my odometer and it said 63333 which seemed fairly significant, I mean, maybe it’s like the call maintenance light on a copy machine but I was thinking I had gotten my 60,000 mile check or maybe that was Bob’s car but later on I found out it was my car so it wasn’t the 60,000 mile thingy. And I was on my way to lunch with a friend and I didn’t have my cell phone because I forgotten to recharge it so the phone was basically like my car would have been if the electric thingy light had come on and I had shut it off—by which I mean dead as a post—so I couldn’t call my friend and my car wasn’t acting weird or anything so I just kept driving, you know? So I get to the lunch place—some dive she likes in Macedonia, food was boring, service was terrible, don’t go there—and my car hasn’t, like, burst into flames or anything and I tell her about my check engine light and she says that her gas cap says that if you don’t put the gas cap on right the check engine light will come on which is obviously stupid since a gas cap is nowhere near the engine unless you have one of the old VW bugs and they didn’t even have heat much less a check engine light but we go look at her gas cap and yeah, that’s what it says so we take my gas cap off and put it back on but the check engine light stays lit. We have lunch anyway. (The check engine light isn’t lit while we have lunch because the car is off.) And then I drive the car to Goodyear where the guy tells me that it isn’t cosmic unless the car is, like, running rough or something, but I should bring it in soon. So that was Friday and I drive it the rest of Friday and Saturday and Sunday—but almost not on Sunday except I have to go get dog food but Pet’s Mart closes at 6:00 on Sunday so I could have not driven it—and on Monday and when I start it up after not driving it for a bunch of hours the check engine light isn’t on but after about ten minutes it comes on. So now it’s Tuesday and could you check it and tell me what’s wrong?



Blogger chance said...

truly the best story ever.

July 25, 2005 9:05 PM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

Take a breath.

Your relationship to cars sounds like my relationship to cars. Although I did once do a field repair with a pair of pantyhose when my fan belt broke, causing endless embarrassment to the guy at the garage. But that was when I was young and fearless and the insides of cars looked less like the inside of computers.

I'm glad neither you nor the car has exploded. That's a good sign.

July 26, 2005 12:30 AM  
Anonymous Walt Farrell said...

Good note, Maureen.

I now understand the disappointment your Goodyear guys expressed when I mentioned your name but didn't have a written note to give them.

By the way, in my car, "check engine" usually means that the mechanics forgot to reset the maintenance timer the last time they performed service, so it says more about the mechanics than the car itself. The car wants service every 5000 miles. After 6000 it starts blinking the check engine light during startup, and then after 7000 leaves it on.

Knowing your Goodyear guys, your light probably meant something else.


July 26, 2005 5:59 AM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Yeah, Walt, I am under some serious pressure at Goodyear to bring a good note. So I hope the guys get a kick out of this one. I wrote a couple of funny notes and then found a year later that they had been posted on the bulletin board. And publication of any sort just stokes my ego.

Madeleine, I know just enough about cars to make a complete idiot of myself. I think the pantyhose repair is a sign of innate car competence and you are the person I want with me on a road trip.

July 26, 2005 9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The check engine light usually means that the diagnostic computer on your car has detected something wrong. There are a whole bunch of sensors buried throughout your car that feed information to the computer.

The Subaru corporation developed a sensor about six years ago that checks for the driver's sense of economic well-being. Once a specified threshold is reached, the check engine light pops on, since the owner can easily afford non-critical maintenance on the car.

* The prototype, using an early
!xopochtli transducer, had problems with generating false alarms (e.g., check engine light goes on when owner finds spare change in couch), so a filter was added to remove 'spikes' of emotion, with gains established through use of a set screw. The automotive engineers working on your car can tweek the set screw, to either

July 26, 2005 9:39 AM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Well, anonymous had it right. The Subaru discovered I was gettng a paycheck and so required an O2 sensor and some repair of the ignition wiring system. So about $450 poorer, I have apparently managed to get the check engine light shut off.

It was driving me nuts.

July 26, 2005 5:07 PM  
Blogger Ruby said...

Oh man... I have a Subara too (Forester). My Forester has the gas cap thing, where if it doesn't "click" at least 3 times, you get the check engine light. Something about back pressure. But, I've also have 2 O2 sensors go out on me. Luckily, all under warrenty.

July 29, 2005 11:10 PM  
Anonymous Levin said...

We also had the infamous check engine light come on. Ours is a brand new minivan. It happened on the weekend so there wasn't much we could do.

I told my wife to keep driving it, she can wait until MOnday to take it in because it wasn't significant, but needed to be looked at. Then the AC went out and in this weather my wife considered that significant.

Turns out the van had come with a bad battery and it had leaked onto a bundle of wires below it. Luckily all that was under warranty.

August 01, 2005 10:03 PM  
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So did they put this one up on the bulletin board? Don't keep us in suspense!

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