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Doc of the Bay

Hudson Cooper - Columnist
Posted 9/2/20

Eventually it happens to all of us. She feels sluggish. The pep she once exhibited is long gone. Lately, you have started to hear a sputtering sound. You decide it is time for a check-up. A friend …

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Doc of the Bay


Eventually it happens to all of us. She feels sluggish. The pep she once exhibited is long gone. Lately, you have started to hear a sputtering sound. You decide it is time for a check-up. A friend recommends a guy who may be able to detect the problems. With a sense of foreboding you bring her in. An assistant takes her to the diagnostic center as you walk to the waiting room for the results.

In the crowded room you join others who nervously await their results. They read old magazines and watch Let's Make A Deal on the wall-mounted television. Eventually, the door to the diagnostic center opens and you hear your name called.

He whispers to you so the others in the room can hear if the big deal of the day is behind door number two. “We hooked her up to the computers and ran a few scans. Luckily, we found the problem.” Your nervousness goes away when he says, “We fixed her. She's gonna be fine.”

“We had to pull the frammis out to replace the recton. It should eliminate the oil overflow in the oval cylinders that caused the sputtering in the rear gazinkazoid.”

Luckily, you brought your car to a good mechanic! You have no idea what he just told you but relieved, you go to the cashier window. Once you see the bill, you feel your rear gazinkazoid begin to sputter. The whole diagnosis and repair process is like going to the doctor's office. However, for car repairs there is no Blue Cross/Blue Shield nor Medicare. You're on your own. You pay with a credit card and drive home knowing that your engine has a brand new recton and oil-free oval cylinders. You also know that once home, step one is canceling the family's Disney Cruise to pay for the repairs.

The only time I ever “check under the hood” is when I occasionally decide to check the oil as I get gas. When I stare at the engine I can only identify 3 things. I recognize the battery, the oil dipstick and the window washer fluid.

There are many dipsticks in an engine. Besides the one for oil, some are there to check the transmission and brake fluid levels. I leave those to the experts since transmission and brakes sound particularly important. But I can handle the one that checks the oil level.

Feeling like Mr. Goodwrench, I pull out the dipstick and use a paper towel to clean it off before reinserting it. Then I remove it again and stare at the oil level. I am not sure what the lines on the dipstick indicate so I shrug and put it back. The only time I become alarmed is when the oil looks jet black and lumpy. At that point I realize that I have traveled 8500 miles beyond the recommended 3000 mile oil change.

Then, with images of exploding manifolds, shredded carburetors and melting crankshafts in my brain, I rush back to the mechanic for an oil change. With my new knowledge of engine parts I can add worrying about a welded frammis, dripping rectons and sputtering gazinkazoids to that list.

The washer fluid reservoir is something I can handle! If it looks low, I go to the trunk and decide which of the 2 containers of fluid to add. If we are approaching cold weather, I grab the one that includes de-icer. In warm months I go for the one with something called bug wash. Why do we need bug wash? Unless you plan on driving through a field of locusts shouldn't plain window washer fluid and windshield wipers solve the problem?

Even though I recognize the battery, I will not touch it. If I sense that my car is slow to “turn over” I drive it to the auto parts area of my town. Every town has an auto parts area. It seems to be an unwritten law that if one auto parts chain opens, a rival store with a similar name must be built within walking distance. So, if “Car World” has a grand opening, within weeks “The World of Cars” will open across the street. Either one will test your battery for free.

If Car World is sold out of camshaft pulley Part Number CP009657 maybe The World of Cars has it in stock. Competing stores selling the same item in close proximity to each other is not limited to auto parts stores. The same thing happens with hamburger and pizza fast food chains.

I always carry jumper cables in my car's trunk, not that I would ever try to attach them to charge a battery. I have googled and watched many videos instructing me on how to clamp the cables on the battery so as not to electrocute myself. Holding them in my hands I approach to jump start my dead battery like Dr. Frankenstein about to energize the monster. Then before I attach the cables, I think it over, put them back in the trunk and call AAA.

Mechanics and doctors have one thing in common. When the good ones finish doing the work, you hope it adds another 200,000 miles to your personal odometer.

Hudson Cooper is a resident of Sullivan County, a writer, comedian and actor.


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