Auto Mechanics 101

The car is currently at our mechanics shop. It's been running rough and sluggish, stalling now and then. Last week it decided to do this on a day Mr. Nina was in the throes of this virus, leaving him stranded, the car in need of a tow.

At first they weren't sure what was wrong with the poor thing. It started up fine for them and showed no issues of sluggish handling or stalling, which caused me to think car's are like children. They act up for mom and dad but behave perfectly for others.

But I digress.

So while the "experts" were busy trying to determine what mechanical defect was causing the symptoms, I went on a several hour journey into basic auto mechanics, namely the ignition system. I learned what a distributor is, what it does (sends the spark to the right spark plug). I learned about the rotor, the cap and the coils inside the cap. I learned about spark plug wires. I learned about when to replace these things (something, aside from the plugs, I've never had done). After a few hours I had it narrowed down to two potential causes: The PGM (that stands for programmed--I think it makes me look cool to abbreviate it though like the professionals) Fuel Injector Relay (also called the Main Relay) or something in the distributor.

Awhile later, the shop called. They had it narrowed down to two potential causes. And what would those be?

Either the Main Relay or the Distributor.

Well, there ya go.

I said I concurred.

They leaned towards it being the Main Relay only given when hooked up to some do-hookey (technical term--ignore the need to understand what it is), it showed that there was no crank.

Well, I wasn't satisfied. Something told me that wasn't the only issue, especially since I had already replaced the Main Relay 10 years ago and at the time, the symptoms the car was giving me at the time was not the same symptoms we had been experiencing lately, certainly not in the number of them. So, I asked if they planned on checking the distributor as well.

No, they hadn't planned on doing that, which I found odd.

So I said "do it". They did.

And they called back 10 minutes later and said the coils inside were bad.

I also told "You were right. You're the woman!"

I asked if they were hiring.

He laughed.

I said I wasn't joking. I nailed the problem before they did.

Sounding embarassed, he stuttered "uh, well yeah, you did, didn't you?"

So we hung up.

Something though told me to keep researching. Oh god. No. No more research, my brain screamed. Well, I ignored the screaming and went back to work and found something interesting while re-reading some of my original material: When changing the plugs (which we were also having done), it's also important to change the wires, for defective/old wires can lead to the car running sluggish and (in)conveniently stalling on occasion.

A ha! I thought. That sounds precisely what our car has been doing! They also need to change not only the plugs but the wires, too. I ran to the phone to make the call but realized it was after 5pm and the shop was closed. So it got me thinking. Why wouldn't they suggest it could be the wires as well? I described the symptoms with such detail that was sure to impress any mechanic. I had the sounds the engine made down to precision from the chug chug to the poof poof.

And yet here these dudes were going after the most labor-intensive, expensive fix as their first choice?

Can anyone say G R E E D?

Well anyway, the car's getting fixed nonetheless. It needs the new distributor and relay. Mr. Nina and I will replace the wires as I also learned how to do that during my research. Same some bucks. Last night we aired our grievances to one another about these folks and decided not to return. I added, in exasperation, "It would be wonderful to connect with someone we know who knows how to work on cars."

Sometimes such moments product quick results, for just this afternoon, whilst some friends were visiting, we were informed, after sharing our story, that the male in the group had extensive experience in working on cars.

"Next time you need a car repair, give me a call," he said.

A very nice offer.

And one that I am sure to take him up on, even if I do decide to do my own research along the way.

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