Ur-Turn is your weekly opportunity to contribute to TTAC. Every Saturday we select a different piece submitted to our contact form, and publish it as a showcase for the diverse perspectives of TTAC’s readers. Today’s contribution is a cautionary tale about knowing your (mechanical) limits, from reader Ross Schold.
I saw an interesting thing recently. While in a parking lot I noticed a couple clearly having mechanical trouble with their van. Being only two spots away I was able to determine in just a few seconds that they were not stranded, but working through the process logically. I gathered that even with the turn of the key their vehicle showed no signs of life. The hood was up, Mr. Van was peering into the engine compartment with a look that bordered on wonder and complete confusion. Mrs. Van, however, was clucking into a cell phone to arrange roadside assistance. They surely seemed to have everything under control.
While I loaded my own car I kept one eye on Mr. Van, curious to see if he would glean anything from his extended engine cavity viewing session. First he rocked back and forth with his hands in his pockets and assessed the inventory of the under hood area.
1- Engine – Got It – Check – Accounted For. Well at least that is still there. Next his hands came out of his pockets – Mr. Van raised his hand over the radiator support and curled his sausage fingers into a loose fist and proceeded to Knock .. .Knock… Knock on the air filter housing. After the knocking was complete he peered around the open hood to his wife in the driver’s seat with a look that said “Ok Honey Bunny Try it now.” – Still nothing … Damn – How did the “Triple Knock” not work?
Just then I heard Mrs. Van give their coordinates to the tow truck company via the cell phone. – Help is on the way.
As I drove off, the “Triple-Knock” technique got me thinking of the urge that most people have to touch something that they don’t understand. This is especially true when it comes to cars. My opinion is that the “Triple Knock” is only one step removed from the “Tire Kick”. Why are so many prospective car buyers drawn to kicking the rubber? This occurs so frequently that it spawned the term “Tire Kickers” to be used in other areas of sales where prospective buyers are not serious and just testing the market.
Now I am not an automotive expert. I am an enthusiast. I know the basics and generally enough to get myself in trouble. Some of this experience has been gained through amateur mechanical work and restoration projects resulting in varied levels of success. Much of the knowledge I have is because I have paid my fair share of repair bills over the years. Some of these repairs I have paid for repeatedly and with enough frequency that I can now diagnose certain issues on my own. My diagnosis also includes a quick calculation to the estimated checking account damage.
I must admit that I have fallen into Touch It trap before. My first reaction to a mechanical problem is generally open the hood and check out the situation. This would only be helpful in a case where there is a liquid pouring from the engine compartment or chunks of metal scattered in a trail behind the car. If Mr. Van is really honest I bet he would admit the same thing. Although he never would have been able to live with himself if he had not tried the” triple air filter knock”. Mrs. Van had it right. Call the tow Truck.
I am all for learning more about the things we don’t understand, especially cars. However, it seems to me that there are ways to go about it. If you are going to touch something make it worth while. Start by reading your owner’s manual you will certainly find out a few things you did not know about your own car. If you still really want to touch something, Change the presets on the radio – The only place you can get stranded there is 99.9 FM ALL POLKA – ALL THE TIME.
Then you can trade in the car and kick some new tires.
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