Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

Hang out with the old preacher by browsing my blogs.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A corker of a mechanic

By necessity I learned auto mechanics.  When pastor's salary qualifies him for poverty level benefits, he finds ways of saving money.  One of those ways is to eliminate (or at least reduce) the obscene price of auto repairs.  So I used to change the oil in all my cars, including the filters and make minor mechanical repairs.  So it was not strange for me to replace the fuel filter on our old, green Pontiac station wagon.  That was 30 years ago.  Cars were mechanical contraptions way back then.  Now they are just a large piece of computer hardware.

Now it so happened that at that point in our lives Barbara was working for the transportation department of Modesto Junior College as a secretary.  She got to know the "boys" who were bus drivers and mechanics.  It was very natural, therefore, for her to ask them about any problems I might be experiencing in my efforts as home mechanic.  We had a cute VW bug as well as the green monster wagon.  As each of our kids reached that magic plateau of driving eligibility, they learned how to operate the four-on-the-floor stick of the VW.  Everybody loved that "scooter", and they still hold it against me for turning it in for that stupid Sapporo.  Whenever all eight of us were traveling, however, the choice of comfort was the green monster.  There was no seat belt law in those days.  (Yes, I am very old indeed.)  Two or three kids could always stretch out in the back on a mattress in the bed of the wagon. 

The fourth of July was approaching, and I was having a problem with the green monster.  It would start and idle normally, but as soon as I tried to put it in gear and pull away from the curb, the monster would cough and quit on me.  We were planning to drive from Modesto over to the San Jose area to see relatives and enjoy fireworks with them, and we needed to use the green monster for that.  So Barbara asked her buddies at MJC for suggestions.  I wasn't too proud to try them all.  Nothing seemed to cure the Pontiac of the feebles.

We put it up to a vote among the kids.  Shall we spend the fourth here, or shall we cram everyone into the VW bug and go see uncle John?  Uncle John won the vote.  Did you ever see the circus clown act in which a dozen clowns climb out of some miniature vehicle?  They had nothing on the Keller family.  Philip found enough room behind the tiny back seat to contort his body.  Two kids sat on the back seat, each with another kid on his lap.  Baby Jonathan sat on his mother's lap as she rode "shotgun".  It was an 80 mile trip, and only once did the crew insist on stopping to stretch.  I wonder if anyone was watching.  At least no traffic cop was looking.  Even in the dark ages we must have been violating some existing law.

Some days later, out of desperation, I made a more radical check of the Pontiac.  Some of the boys from the traffic department, when they heard that I had recently changed the fuel filter, suggested that I check to make sure it was not a faulty part.  One of the laws of mechanics says that if you have recently worked on a part of the car, it is most likely that it is the recent change that is at fault.  So I tore it all apart and carefully examined every part.  Uh oh!  Now I remember that when I disassembled the gas line in order to install the filter that the siphon effect was spilling my fuel onto the ground.  I solved that problem by finding a tiny cork to plug the line.  To my complete embarrassment I found the cork still doing it's job.  It seems the cork had turned at an angle just enough for a trickle of gasoline to flow through.  But when I stomped the gas pedal and the carburetor gasped for a flood of fuel, it was still getting the tiny trickle, so it coughed, sputtered and stalled.

You can imagine Barbara's buddies at MJC holding their sides and wetting their pants after she told them.


  1. I remember the trip to the Bay Area in the Bug, but I didn't remember the reason why.

  2. This was clearly back before they had the five gears forward, one reverse. That's what my car has.