Sunday, March 13, 2011

Zen and the art of Car repair.

The Aluminum Falcon was in desperate need of repair with a turn signal out, a muffler leak of unknown origin and the check engine light on. The check engine light AKA CEL or MIL was the lowest priority in my mind since I was pretty sure that was something stupid. It had come on one fall morning (OK, it was as different season) after the car started. The car's engine hesitated just for a second, sounded like it was going to stall and then miraculously pulled out of it at the last second.

Then the CEL came on.

After that the car ran fine. On a 14 year old car with one door that doesn't open and large crease down one side, the CEL just adds to the ambiance.  I mean it was like some American cars where the model of the car should be named after the CEL like a Chevy MIL or the new Buick CEL-6000. 111,000 miles and CEL came on once. It's really a miracle.

One night last week I stopped by the Auto parts store and bought a turn signal lamp and a muffler repair kit. I thought what the hell, if I can fix muffler for $3.50, why not? I was doing this because I had misplaced the lifetime warranty that I know I had from the muffler I put on the car in 2009.

The turn signal lamp was a snap since that side of the car looks like a large monster took a chunk out of my car. I reached up into the fender, found the socket and replaced the lamp. It took all of 5 minutes and I was so proud of myself.

The muffler was another story. Apparently reaching under a 5.9 inch high car to access the muffler and tail pipe is not an easy thing. Who knew? Last just leave it with "Just was stupid and it didn't work" and the next day I called my mechanic, the one with the very large boat and steep monthly boat payments.

He couldn't get me in until Monday. This was bad as it gave me more time to consider DIY options. Friday night was my second stop to my new best friend, the auto parts salesman.

This time I bought two new kinds of DIY muffler repair kits. One was tape. Yes, tape. It was aluminum tape but still, it was tape. The other was putty. This time I got wise and used the jack that came with car to get a few more inches under it.

Believe it or not, I fixed my muffler with tape and putty. I was ready for inspection.

Now I still had the CEL, but I thought that was a nothing, remember? Well apparently the state of New Jersey has a different idea and here's a handy tip for those of you out there with a CEL on and you don't have a reader: Get your car inspected and the state of NJ will read those codes causing the CEL for free!

Mine failed with a "MIL Command Status: FAIL" and a "OBD SYSTEM - DIAGNOSTIC CODES PRESENT"  and they listed three codes.

I looked them up on the internet and they were "Cycl 2 misfired, Cyl 4 misfired and general cyl misfire". I literally failed inspection because back in October my car nearly stalled. Of course the State zombie at the inspection station made it sound I like I was personally responsible for global warming but really this was non-sense.

So now the Aluminum Falcon as the very appropriate scarlet "R" sewn to it's windshield telling the public to stay away, I'm dangerous.

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