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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bad Tidings

A middle aged man walked in off the sidewalk to ask a question this morning. This turns out to be a friendly inquiry about my services or what vehicles I work on most of the time. In this instance the gentleman wanted to know why his truck wouldn’t start, and what he should do to fix it. I don’t answer these questions with smart-ass sarcastic remarks, although I am quite capable of it. :) If the walk-in gives me enough information, I can many times direct them to the next logical step. It was not so simple this time.

“Hey, my 86’ Ford Ranger won’t start.” The man I will call Ranger from here on told me.

When I waited for him to add to his preamble, he became impatient.

“Well… what do you think?”

I guess Ranger was relying on my curiosity as to why his Ford wouldn’t start. This is an immediate problem, because I don’t care. On the other hand, my part of town is reminiscent of the old West, where everyone was armed, and nearly always polite. This gentleman could live next door in the condo complex or down the street. He could have the whole night to redecorate my building while I’m gone. Although I normally would handle him with respect, this added incentive of self protection helps me keep my attitude adjusted into an even more helpful cadence.

“Does the engine crank over normally?” I ask, making my award winning imitation of a starter cranking an engine.

“What the hell’s that sound you’re making?”

Apparently, it wasn’t as award winning as I thought. Plan B

“When you turn the key to the start position, does the engine crank normally, or does it make sounds you’re unused to, or no sound at all?”

“Oh…” The light bulb blinks on in Ranger’s head. “Yeah, it does make the normal sounds trying to start.”

“It sounds like your starting system’s okay then. That leaves us with engine, fuel or ignition. Are you certain you have fuel in it?”

“I just filled it up a couple days ago, and it’s been running fine until this morning. What do you mean engine?”

“No compression, blown timing belt, coolant in the engine.”

“How would I know that?”

“You can take the oil cap off and check the underside of it. If there’s a coffee colored creamy substance there, then coolant’s getting into the crankcase and combustion chamber. Checking timing and compression would be more complicated.”


“It could be ignition or fuel too though,” I add.

“How do I check for those?”

If you have to ask, you don’t. “You’ll need to tow the vehicle to a shop and have it checked out.”

“I’m not spending money on that damn thing! It ain’t worth it.”


He looks at me accusingly for a moment as if I were somehow to blame, but then just says ‘thanks’ and starts walking toward the sidewalk.

“No problem, would you like a card?”

Ranger turned and accepted the proffered card. He glanced at it, and then jammed it in his pocket.

At least the messenger lived to share bad tidings yet another day. :)


Jordan Summers said...

Oak town is such a funny place. *g*

Charles Gramlich said...

I guess you are in one of those professions where most people seeking out your services start out in a bad mood. Happens to me around finals time when the only students who come to see me want to know how I can save their grades for them.

BernardL said...

It is sometimes, Jordan, especially at Nilson Brothers Garage. :)

It is indeed much the same, Charles. :)

Virginia Lady said...

He's got a twenty plus year old vehicle and he expects to keep running without any care? ROFL.

I've got a ten year old truck and it needs ball joints, some exhaust work and my heater still doesn't work right, though we think stop leak may have been to blame. Evil stuff.Not to mention a couple of fuses and dash lights that are out. And that's WITH doing regular maintenance on it.

It's all part of keeping a vehicle for any length of time. It's amazing how some people think they can just drive it into the gorund and expect to keep going forever.

BernardL said...

You're right, VL, with maintenance, vehicles can drive you crazy. Neglect them, and they will have their revenge. :)

Stop leak will plug the heater core if there are even microscopic places where air can get in on the heater core. The tubes are small and it doesn't take much. Bar's Leak, if used properly, is the least likely to plug up stuff you don't want plugged. I only recommend using sealant if an old vehicle not worth much starts leaking because of a seeping head gasket or small block crack. It's never a good idea if a radiator starts leaking. Using sealant to seal a radiator leak usually turns a small problem into a much larger one.

Vesper said...

Blogger seems to have eaten my first comment... :-(

It's always lovely to read about these exchanges, Bernard, even though you might not be very happy at the time... :-) :-) :-)

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

They used to be a drag, Vesper. With being able to write about them on the blog, I welcome them. :)

raine said...

You're a very patient man, Bernard.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

Thanks, Raine. Yeah, patience is part of being a mechanic. Otherwise, every time I whacked a knuckle or my head through the years, I would have done some unauthorized body work to the offending vehicle with my hammer. :)

Miladysa said...


Thankfully I just tell my husband if my car ever plays up (which it rarely does) and like magic it gets fixed :D

BernardL said...

My wife treats her car the same way, Miladysa. :)