Thursday, December 26, 2013

Things Salem Should Never Be Allowed Near, Volume 2

I'm a very technically adept person with computers. I have a fairly good idea, despite only some basic training by a major OEM that I used to work for, about the various intimate functions of computer components. I built my own gaming rig. I've repaired a laptop or two in my time. I've fixed countless broken desktop computers, and was a senior level tech in the phone support division of the previously mentioned OEM. This is all important to note in context because when it comes to certain machines, I really have no idea what I'm doing.

 I have a miracle of a car. It's a 1991 Toyota Corolla, with around 135,000 miles on it. The engine runs well, the transmission shifts smoothly. There's no radio, on account of it being stolen when I lived in a Texas ghetto. There's a crack that runs off in a few different directions, nearly forming a crosshair on my windshield. The AC quit working, and the rolly-knob thing fell off of the window crank. But, despite all that, it still starts and it still runs.

An apt analogy of me working on a car.

Despite my complete ignorance as to how it works. Over the past few years, the car's developed an interesting problem. Immediately after making the return trip from Alabama to Texas for a work-related hurricane relocation, the car completely shut off not a half a mile from my apartment. In the process of attaching jumper cables, it sprang back to life, headlights winking on, and the key-noise-maker-whats-it bonging irritatedly at me from inside the cabin. Since then, it's periodically lay in wait for me to go somewhere, only to completely die when I turn the key, only for the dash lights to come back on when I let go of it.

For a while, I would open the hood, scratch my head confusedly, and play with whatever I could find that would move, or at least seem pliable. At one point, I was literally repairing the car by popping the hood, hitting various parts with a wrench, then turning the key. I eventually narrowed down the culprit to the battery terminals. The positive terminal clamp thing had come loose, so I tightened it. Problem solved! Car was starting and driving normally.

Only computer dog understands me.
Albuquerque's winter proved too much and, as I was irrationally afraid of working on the car, I was back to readjusting the terminal clamp every time I needed to drive somewhere, and again when I needed to drive back. The last time it happened, the clamp was so corroded that it literally fell apart in my hands. I caught a ride with my boss to have the battery tested (it needed to be replaced) and buy new clamps, but when I went to put them on, the bolt holding the clamp in place was so corroded and stuck I couldn't turn it. I sat for a bit, scratching my head and remembering basic science. I then set to work tearing the old clamp apart and creating a mass of ugly, shredded, crap-covered metal that would fit into the new clamp. Then I fastened the new clamp to the dessicated corpse of the old clamp, tightened the bolts on it, and was quite pleased with myself when the car started.

I was doubly pleased with myself when I saw the look on the mechanic's face when he saw what I'd done. He personally loosened the bolt with several complicated looking vices and wrenches, then removed the shredded mess that was the old clamp so that I could properly attach the new clamp, which he informed me wasn't even the right type (but would still work). All free of charge.

The moral of this story is that Salem should never be let under the hood of a car, nor anywhere near a proper set of tools.


  1. I'm pretty sure that the mechanic did the work for free as a sign of mercy. "Dear God, this berk has no business under the hood of the car, and if he messes with it again he'll somehow cause it to explode and kill everyone around him."

  2. I'm not allowed near a car, unless I'm a passenger. I'm pretty sure there's a state law involved by now. I'm to dangerous around them, I can't even pump gas. I do, and the nozzle falls off the hose at the station. True story. More than once.

    Cars are evil. As is anything near them, guilty by association.

  3. its odd I'm kinda the oppisit, I can generally figure mechanical and electrical applications by a bit of luck and basic knowledge of the system. Granted I suck socially and can never keep to a hobby for more than 3-4 years.

  4. Interestingly, I managed to teach myself how to change out a flat tire for a spare on my own, while in a severe rainstorm. I can also change out the battery, but oil and filter changes I leave to others; too annoying to dispose of the old oil.

    What's problematic nowadays is that cars have gotten so overcomplex in design that you HAVE to have professional help for anything beyond a burned-out light or the aforementioned flat.

  5. Well this here mechanic says good job. Toyota battery clamps are common failure items and your description of the problem had me saying to myself loose clamp.


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