Rather trying to “walk off” Thanksgiving turkey and wine, I chose to spend what little is left of the holiday drinking coffee, watching sports, and working on the various motorized vehicles that litter the general environs of my home.
And I really attempted to tackle the sorts of mechanical jobs at the end of which I could hang a “Mission Accomplished” banner across the garage threshold. You know the kinds of things I’m focused on here: tightening a few bolts, inflating tires, and wiping off the greasy detritus of many, many months of mechanical non-intervention.
True story: I was recently engaged in the semi-annual washing of my much beloved but very “beaterish” Miata (“You know that’s a girl’s car, Dad.”), when I heard a hissing sound from one of the wheels. Fearing the worst — that my car was either haunted (which would have required an immediate call to Zak Bagans) or was harboring a snake — I soon discovered that I had damaged one of the valve stems when I cleaned the wheel.
(Note to self: Don’t clean the wheels. They just get dirty again anyway.)
Upon closer inspection, I discovered all four valve stems were damaged and ready to crack, and for once in my long-suffering lifetime of automotive woes, I actually had a workable backup plan already in place, as I had picked up a used set of wheels and tires several months ago. They had been rotting on the side of the house since purchase, of course, but they held air.
Ready, set, swap-o-matic, and I was back in business.
It only took me two months to get around to fixing the valve stems on the original wheels, but I had a great time doing it this week. I got to use an industrial, real-world tire changer. And the guy at the hobby shop only had to explain to me five times how to use it.
I’ve got new respect for the knuckle-draggers at Discount Tire now, believe you me.
So the tire mounting deal turned out not to be enough of a challenge, and I ramped it up a notch: Clean the carburetor on a friend’s scooter.
Now I had already cleaned and serviced this scooter for the same guy ab0ut a year ago, and though I returned a perfectly functioning, driveable
piece of crap Chinese motorbike to him, he promptly let it sit for a year and finally returned it to me, head hung in shame, asking me to repeat the favor.
I agreed to work on the bike on one condition. I told him he had to sell it if I fixed it.
That might sound harsh but: 1) I was sick of this particular piece of machinery, and 2) I feared for his safety riding it. It truly is a junker and is truly better off being donated to some high school automotive shop class to demonstrate how not to build quality machinery.
Long story short. I’d done this particular job before and could do it again, probably in under an hour — especially if I didn’t replace all the bolts and screws (or simply dropped some of them, never to be seen again).
So I dutifully pulled everything apart and got most of it back together correctly, and then tried to fire it up.
And tried again.
Oh, it cranked. It cranked until I killed the battery two or three times. This is how I know having a battery charger comes in handy — another purchase made because of idiotic decisions I’ve made in the past.
But no matter what I did, I could not get the stupid thing to start.
Surely I had made some stupidly simple mistake in reassembling the carb, I thought.
I probably tore it down and rebuilt it at least three times, since I was absolutely, positively sure it had a carb problem.
Time to retreat to the Internet. And I quote, “In general, a scooter needs three things to start: fuel, spark, and the left handbrake engaged. And remember to ensure the kill switch is not on.”
Kill switch. This bike has a kill switch? No way.
I went back outside to determine whether this stupid scooter had a kill switch.
Was it pressed in?
If I disengaged it, would the scooter immediately start?
By the way, even though the engine started on the first crank, because I had screwed around with the carburetor so much, I am fairly confident I damaged some of the internals.
Why do I think this? Well, though the bike runs, it runs and drives like crap which, I suppose, is appropriate, given that the entire thing is a piece of crap (or carp, depending on how tired my typing is, and that’s kind of a Chinese analogy, too).
Now I sit here in a pool of shame and need to go out and buy a carb rebuild kit, to fix something that I should never have broken in the first place.
On this Thanksgiving, then, I have confirmed that I am both a moron and an idiotic mechanic.
If you haven’t figured out something to give thanks for this year, count your lucky stars I’m not the guy working on your car, or motorcycle, or scooter, or bicycle.
Did I mention I’m a pretty awful carpenter, too?
Happy Thanksgiving, then.