Sometimes you can’t win for losing. That’s an expression I learned from my pals in Louisiana. Except they pronounced “can’t” as “cain’t.”
About two weeks ago I spent the better part of an afternoon replacing the spark plugs on my pick-up. It was, unfortunately, eerily characteristic of many of my mechanical escapades. I took on a seemingly simple task and managed to turn it into my own personal assault on Mount Kilimanjaro.
I’m in no shape to be climbing mountains, let me tell you.
Even though I managed to get everything under the hood reasonably reassembled, I hadn’t taken the truck out for a real spin to check my work until last Friday.
Once I turned on the ignition, I noticed it was idling a bit high. I attributed it to the engine being cold and the new super duper plugs I had installed. As luck or fate or both would have it, the symptom didn’t go away. The more I drove it that day, the worse it sounded. Things reached a fairly crappy climax in the afternoon when the dreaded “Check Engine Light” suddenly illuminated.
Well, that really chapped my a**, as my Southern buds would say.
All kinds of resolution scenarios started flowing through my mind.
Had I forgotten to reconnect one of the thousands of vacuum lines properly? Did I screw up the intake manifold somehow? Am I sure I even know what an intake manifold is anymore? Did I install the wrong kind of plugs?
Really, the possibilities were endless.
And I absolutely suck at complicated automotive troubleshooting.
But instead of taking my vehicle in for professional advice, I decided to tackle the diagnosis myself. I had little to lose, I figured.
Clearly, I had done something wrong, but what?
Since many, many prior personal automotive problem episodes preceded this one, I made the wise investment years ago in purchasing what’s known as a “Code Puller.” Basically, the Muggle Mechanic plugs this thing into the vehicle’s computer, and out spits various unintelligible letter/number sequences that translate into specific problems currently plaguing the vehicle’s DNA.
After running the device through a couple of cycles, I wrote down the associated codes and headed inside to the internet.
P0502: High Idle Condition.
sh kidding. That was helpful.
Next stop for me, still on the internet, was visiting various websites and owner’s forums to determine if anyone else had ever
screwed up experienced this problem, and if they had, what was the fix?
It turns out that in my zeal to not only change the spark plugs, but also to address a couple of other issues I found in the process (namely carbon build-up in the throttle body, which I diligently cleaned), I quite possibly managed to destroy one of the most expensive and sensitive parts of the intake system.
All because I was trying to be thorough and do the right thing.
I guess that teaches me. From now on, I am returning to my scattershot, half-assed automotive repair methodology.
It’s clearly less risky and less expensive.
However, before I became completely distraught, I stumbled across a very thoroughly explained engine computer re-set procedure that, if executed correctly, might be the answer to my troubles.
In order to successfully complete this step-by-step process, timing (to the second) was critical, and disconnecting other devices under the hood was required for everything to work out properly. The whole thing was fairly complicated.
More defeated than confident, I threw caution and what was left of my self-esteem to the wind, and gave it a go.
Well, it took me three tries, but eventually I got the process right, and it seemed to work. After I buttoned everything up, I drove the truck around for a bit and, indeed, I cautiously declared success.
I went inside and beamed to my Lovely Spouse, “I think I fixed it. But I’m not 100% sure. I don’t want to grab defeat from the jaws of victory.”
“That’s great,” she replied. “I didn’t know there was a problem. Where do you want to eat dinner tonight?”
Which brings me to today’s crisis: Daughter’s Computer (pictured above).
In a rousing bout of self-restraint, she recently declared she’s going to hold off replacing her iPhone, but could Dad please replace the cooling fan in her dying laptop?
“No problemo, Daughter! I just single-handedly (not really — an internet cast of thousands helped) repaired my 2006 pick-up truck, which had a very complicated issue that I resolved.”
I mean, how hard could replacing the fan in her computer be? A couple of screws here, a panel there, and Voila!
It took me about an hour, and I somehow removed about fifty miniature screws in the process, but I got the stupid thing apart and the fan out. This time around, for help I referenced a YouTube video, where some dude in a ballcap took apart the same laptop in about five minutes.
When I examined the faulty fan, I discovered it was jammed with five years’ worth of dirt and dust.
Daughter had killed it.
So after a quick trip to Fry’s (“Nope, we don’t stock that stuff. Go to Amazon.), I placed an online order and her new fan is on its way from China.
It may get here in thirty days.
It may not.
I know one thing.
I will have forgotten absolutely every detail associated with taking the stupid thing apart by then. I will, indeed, need God’s Help (and some nuns’, too) to put it back together again properly.
I put the odds of success at roughly fifty percent — if one of the cats doesn’t knock the box of parts over in the meantime.
If that happens, all bets are off, and Daughter probably becomes the beneficiary of a new device.
I guess I need to hide the box now.