Car Talk

(Originally posted on April 14, 2010)

If something, a tool, an instrument or a machine, fails to work, I always try to make it work by fixing it or by finding a work-around.  It can be a challenge, but usually the process is fun.  You gather the information, and you diagnose the problem.  You see if you have the tools to fix it, and and if you do, you try to fix it.  It is important to realize how much you can and can’t do on your own, and sometimes you’d better get a professional help… but like a puzzle, the bigger the challenge is, the greater the triumphant feeling will be when you succeed.

When I successfully tweaked the clock speed of my first desktop personal computer (Power Macintosh 6100/60) by bypassing the clock chip, I felt victorious.  When I found a way to adjust the tension of my clip-in violin bow relatively quickly using custom-crafted cork bits, I was silently proud.  When I wrote a bunch of database scripts to send data from one table to another in a foreign file, I thought I was a genius.  And when I revived my car after a couple of months of trial and error, I was just ecstatic.  I felt that there’s nothing I cannot do! ..well, yes, I’m exaggerating.

Fixing my car indeed took some efforts.  I had spent many long nights just reading the 1993 Civic shop manual… well, I knew NOTHING about mechanics of the car, mind you.  I became a member of so many Honda/Acura drivers’ groups online just to get information or to have my questions answered.  I had spent several hours under the steering column assembly just to make sure I had all the tools I needed.  I wasn’t 100% sure of my diagnosis, and consequently I wasn’t sure if the ignition lock assembly that I had bought from AC Delco would work.  But when you disconnect the battery cable and disarm the airbag, you’ve got to just do what you’ve taught yourself to do.  When I installed the new ignition lock assembly and put back the steering column assembly together, I still wasn’t sure if I did the right thing to fix the problem — but when I re-connected the battery cable and turned the new key that came with the assembly… the sound of the engine starting… that was just blissful and heavenly.  I did it.  Heck yeah I did it…!!  The new and heavy 1/2-inch drive ratchet felt sooo good in my hand.  The smell of mechanical grease was like fragrance.  My thought was logical and my diagnosis was rational — and my repair was methodical.  I felt so sure of myself, and thought I could call myself a dude.

That was a couple of years ago, but I still browse the Civic shop manual once in a while for fun.  I look forward to listening to the NPR show Car Talk every week.  Spring has come and the day is getting longer and longer — a perfect season to work on a car.  At this point I have no immediate plans to work on my car as it’s been purring like a kitten, but I can’t wait to jack it up, put it on the jack stands and slide under it on a creeper!

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