01 July 2009

I Checked The Engine. It's Still There.

I sat at the light, listening to the radio and wondering if Staind had ever, or would ever, come out with a song that didn't sound exactly like every other one of their songs, when I noticed an unpleasant orange glow coming from the dashboard. CHECK ENGINE. Oh jeezly shite, what now? Last I checked, I had $132 in my bank account. When taking into consideration the bills that needed to be paid in the coming week, I pegged my net balance at -$310. Not good. Not the time for car trouble.

I pulled over into the nearest Amoco station and got out of the car. How long had it been since my last oil change? Two months? Four months? Six? Eight? No! You're just counting by twos! Focus! I unlatched the hood and peered inside, unsure of what I might be looking for. Coolant level? Eh, I guess...that's...fine. Hmm, better check the oil. I did so, and it appeared to be low. Okay, then that was probably the problem. I would just buy a quart of Texas tea and everything would be all right. No need to panic.

I added the oil and slammed the hood down, pleased with myself for performing this complicated bit of DIY auto repair. I started the ignition and frowned at the CHECK ENGINE light, which was still burning bright, taunting me with its lack of decent information on how to proceed. Well, that was that. I would have to take it in. Perhaps I could talk the management of the dealership to accept one of the car seats as payment for services rendered.

"What seems to be the problem?" the gruff mechanic asked as I approached the Service counter of the Honda dealership.

"Well," I said, trying to muster all of the authority I could bring to bear from such a weak, un-knowledgeable position. "That, uh...that check engine light came on--heh--you know...cars."

He just stared at me.

"Anyway," I continued, "The check engine light came on, so I figured...better, uh, find out what's wrong."

He began typing some things into his computer, and I stood back, trying to convince myself he wasn't writing "Sucker: take for all we can get."

"What type of vehicle is it?"

"A, um, Honda Civic."


I muttered a response.

"I'm sorry?"


That's right, ladies.

I pretended he wasn't smirking as he noted the information.

"It's freezing in here," I mentioned.

"You think so?" he muttered, still typing.

"Yeah!" It was. You could have bred polar bears in this type of climate.

"Hmm." He stopped typing and looked directly at me. "I'm not freezing."

Okayyy then.

"We'll take a look," he said. "You can have a seat in the waiting room."

"Oh, there's something else," I said. "It's been making a weird rattling sound for some time. You know, like...rattle, rattle, clink...rattle, rattle, tonk. Like that."

I cleared my throat.

"We'll take a look."

I took my seat in the waiting room and watched "The Price is Right" for the next half hour, convinced that I had conveyed the sound without sacrificing my dignity.

If I had preserved any dignity, however, in explaining what was wrong with my car, it had been lost at some point between the time I sat down and the time the mechanic came back to retrieve me from the waiting room. Now there was not even a faint attempt to hide the smirk.

"Well, we found the problem," he said.

"Oh. Good."

"Loose gas cap. It happens."

"Wow, that makes the Check Engine light come on?"

He nodded, giving me a receipt that read "No charge".

"All right, well, I appreciate it. Oh, did you look into that rattling?"

At this point he turned his back to me, seemingly occupying himself with something at the back of the counter. I only realized later that he was probably trying to hide the fact that he was about to burst into laughing tears. His face was remarkably red when he finally turned back around. "Yes, we did. There was an empty Coke can in the backseat. It was rattling up against your...extensive...collection of cassettes."

"Mmm," I said, feeling both relieved and starkly unamused. I thought about informing this know-it-all that Warrant's Cherry Pie album was just as good in tape form as it was in MP-whatever-the-hell, but it didn't really seem worth it.

Next time, I'm ignoring that light.


mama-face said...

You are so lucky. Last time the check engine light came on in one of our cars someone else was driving it and kept right on driving. Who knew that a car can explode when that jeezly shite-y light comes on? And that some people do not take responsibility for their actions?

I have always been suspicious about what those guys are typing...

Shieldmaiden96 said...

The Rambler's 1995 Nissan Maxima sported a 'check engine' light shining in its amber glory for approximately four years. We recently junked it, because the suspension was shot. I don't think it had anything to do with the light.

Mine says 'Service Engine Soon'. I look at it, panic for a split second, think, "Define service, and define SOON".....and calm right down. Its too vague to be threatening. Should say BREAKDOWN IMMINENT.

Winky Twinky said...

hehe...I learned about that gas cap thingy a while back too...although now my engine light stays on because of censors that are too expensive to replace. You lucked out!

Eric said...

Oh, you're supposed to *do* something when that light comes on? You are a better man than me, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Ah you are definitely the richer man for having had this experience: you got to watch TPIR!

AND...wasn't that awesome when that Italian lady won both showcases?

heh heh

Shawn said...

Mama-face: Yeah, I'm always hesitant to let anyone else drive my car, for just that sort of reason. Well that, and you have to perform some unusual maneuvers to get my car to stop, which is more than I typically feel like explaining.

Shield: RIP Rambler's Maxima. Yeah, the check engine light is too vague as well. Come on, it's the computer age, tell me what's wrong.

Winky: I am against car censorship of any kind.

Eric: As the survivor of two cracked engine blocks, I've learned to pay attention when someone seems wrong.

Quirky: I don't know, I was too distracted by how horrible Drew Carey suddenly looks.

Chris@Maugeritaville said...

Ah, I drove my last car (a Mazda 626) about 130,000 miles with that damn light on.

And don't you think they should have a separate light for "Check Gas Cap"? I mean, that's nowhere NEAR the engine.

amylou1977 said...

i wish my engine light was that easy of a fix...but at least it drives

foxy said...

Net balance at -310... hahaha! Sounds like me! It is NEVER a good time for car trouble.

Okay, I've gotta admit, I made the same mistake with a water bottle cap that was rattling around in my console. I was all, WHAT is that freaking noise? Thank God I realized the culprit before taking it in. Those stupid mechanics probably love that shit.

C.B. Jones said...

I'm trying to find me one of those old timey wind up cars. The only engine problems you could have with those is the handle on the crank breaking off.

Scott Oglesby said...

I while back when you did the post about mythical creatures, I was going to suggest the ‘check engine light’ but I guess it’s not really a creature. It is mythical in my opinion though. It’s a trap, paid for by big auto repair. The mechanic mafia decides they need a little cash, bam they just press the button. Works just like a remote control. A pavlovian remote control!!
You must have come in just after they hit their quota. Lucky!!

Shawn said...

Chris: So where is the engine? I mean, *I* know, but for the benefit of my readers.

Amylou: Removing the bulb works every time.

Foxy: Oh, I'm sure they all get together with their hilarious stories of the day.

C.B.: I was thinking of busting my Hot Wheels out of retirement.

Scott: Brilliant theory! It does all seem quite suspicious now that you mention it.

Vivienne said...

I have one on in my Suburban that says ABS.... I figure it is to remind me to do my crunches. pfft. What kind of car has abs?

Soda and Candy said...

Hahaha, this would totally happen to me.

In other news, thanks for broadening my vocab, I will be using "jeezly shite" at the next opportunity!

Jenn Thorson said...

Ah, your "Check Engine" is my "Service Engine Soon" light. "soon?" I mean, soon as in, "when you get around to it," or "before the engine shoots six foot flames"?

I never feel comfortable with these things.

I'm glad you got that troublesome Coke can problem taken care of. Improperly-rolling Coke cans have been known to cause 1 in every 50 accidents, you know.

ReformingGeek said...

Oh yeah. That car is HOT!

Well, at least it wasn't literally hot.

Funny story.

Candice said...

Last time my check engine light came on I pretty much ignored it. I figured I wasn't getting out and checking shit in 100+ weather.

So I kept driving..

About 4 miles.

And then smoke began to rise up from the hood.

Yeah, that ended up costing a few grand.

Phillipia said...

It's orange...if it really meant "stop and do something NOW" it would be red, right??? Tell me I'm right, 'cuz mine has been on since 3 days after I drove the car off the lot and that's what the nice sales guy told me...

Dave said...

I once remember my mechanic telling me that their biggest form of entertainment was when customers would try to describe the noises they heard from their cars. Sometimes, the mechanics would "counter" with similar sounding noises just to get the customer to repeat themselves--with emphasis this time.

Shawn said...

Vivienne: The new Saturn Crunch does, but that's the only one.

Soda: I'm sure it will sound a lot better with an Aussie accent.

Jenn: I didn't know that! Well, now I feel a lot less silly about getting that bit of business cleared up.

Reforming: You know it.

Candice: Yeah, it's always one extreme or the other. That's why multiple lights are needed.

Phillipia: Well, I would personally believe anything a car salesman told me.

Dave: No doubt they had a good laugh about my performance.

shopgirl101 said...

Do they even make cars that have tape decks in them anymore? Wow.

dizzblnd said...

OMG... That is the funniest guy/car story EVE> That blows my theory that men are born knowing everything abot cars.

BTW ABC is stealing your blog name AND your shark ( well it might not be your shark) For their new reality shows about inventors.

AD said...

Ahahahahaaaa. :D

And I thought all men knew cars.

Lunatron (aka Jamie) said...

A friend and I took care of that pesky light on an old car of his. We loosened the dash enough to get a wrench behind the instrument panel and smashed the bulb. Must have worked because the light went out. :)

Anonymous said...

Next time I'll be waving to you stuck on the side of the road. buah haha haha haha

Shawn said...

Shopgirl: No. That's why it's a classic.

Dizz: Yeah, I've known about the ABC series for some time...you know...Googling myself. I've had visits from ABC studios in LA, too, so I guess they're (mildly) aware of me, too.

AD: Well, I know basic stuff. Like how to turn it on. Work the radio presets. Stuff like that.

Lunatron: That will do it every time!

Bearman: That's just fine, see if I let you listen to my Footloose soundtrack tape.

Anonymous said...

That's better than them telling you it costs $452 to fix your flux capacitor.

Blue Balls The Lead Guitarist from Warrant said...

You had the opportunity to tell him that Warrant's Cherry Pie album was just as good in tape form as it was in MP-whatever-the-hell -- and you didn’t???

Oh Shawn, Shawn, Shawn, it’s like I don’t even know you some times…

Dalton J. Fox said...

Seriously, two paragraphs in I was thinking "I wonder if he checked his gas cap."

The Stabbing Pen said...

If Family Feud was on instead of the Price is Right, it'd be worth going thru it all over again. Much better show!

Maureen said...

Yeah, worst move Drew Carey EVER made.

And my friend at work had the same gas cap situation. Apparently, it causes some kind of pressure imbalance if not put on correctly.

But that little tidbit of info cost her money... you're lucky they didn't charge you.

George said...

Those lights are only there cosmetic purposes, right?

JerseyGirl said...

a. Remember when I taught you that at 7-eleven? ; )

b. "That's right, ladies."

...OMG, that made me laff.

c. you had me at tape deck.

; )


The Queen said...

Brother is a Mr. Goodwrench dude.. a little old lady brought her car in because it had fluid leaking under the tire...

brother told her it was dog pee..

Really she said?

he bent down.. got some on his finger.. tasted it .. and said yeppers... dog pee..

she was gagging when she left... It was actually the water that splatters off your air conditioner when you run it... but she didn't know that...

Sue said...

That happened to me too! I watch some soap opera for an hour waiting for the mechanic to tell me I'm an idiot.
The next time it came on I check my gas cap instead of my engine, ignored it until I think it must have burned out.