By Keith Whitson
Occasionally you will see a car abandoned along the interstate. Usually it has some sort of clothing item tied to the radio antenna or stuck in the window to signal distress. However, it is not a very common sight considering all of the cars on the roads today.
As a young boy, I remember more guys working on their cars and trucks. It just seemed like a natural thing to do. Whether it was in a driveway or along the highway, automobile hoods were raised and a “would be” mechanic was checking out the situation.
You could even pull into a gas station and someone would run out, pump your gas, wash your windshield and check your oil. Now we pay four times more at the pump to do it all ourselves.
Most automobiles today don’t allow the option for the do-it-yourself mechanic to poke and prod under the hood. Most everything is covered and sealed from easy access. I don’t even recognize an engine when I raise my hood. When I take it in to the Volkswagen dealership I have learned that the problem is small but the work involved to get around, underneath, behind and to the actual problem is extensive.
I am grateful for every business that comes to Erwin, including numerous Mexican restaurants, pizza eateries and video rental options. But, I am in amazement everyday at our rising number of auto parts stores. We have two large ones and one on the way within walking distance of each other. Are there that many automobiles tearing up and that many drivers who can still fix their own?
How do you decide which of the three to use? With all of those parts they could replace most of the engines in Erwin.
The thing that brings me more stress with automobiles are tires. I know they take a beating, especially on some of the roads around town. However a tire pressure monitor on an automobile can be the best and worst thing ever.
If it’s cold out, it declares the pressure low. You add pressure and it still isn’t happy or can’t be cleared on the dashboard indicator.
Did you ever think we would be paying for air to go in those tires? Air from that helpful, efficient gas station in the past was free, now it is $1. It must have been the idea of the genius who decided to put water in a bottle, say it is from a fresh spring and sell it for $1.
The one thing I pride myself on is being able to change a flat. It hasn’t happened often but I have changed several for employees here at the Record over the years and a few of my own. The main problem is finding where the tools are hidden in the car.
Last week I was headed to Walmart or many like to say “The Walmart.” I heard a noise as if something had kicked up along the interstate and hit my car. From that, the tire pressure warning came on, followed by a symbol and the wording “FLAT.”
I was still rolling smoothly. There was no ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk as I would expect from a flat. I slowed down, kept preparing to pull over but hoping to get to Walmart’s exit. I made it and even pulled into the parking lot that services Los Jalapenos.
Upon getting out, I heard a hissing sound as the front driver’s side tire was quickly going down. I debated my options. The sun was hot and I had on dress clothes. I thought I might as well see how complicated this was going to be.
I drive an SUV with the tire in the back hatch. I lifted it for the first time looking at my spare and saw a deflated temporary. The changing tools were mounted in their form fitting styrofoam compartments with velcro straps securing them.
I got everything loose and stared at the various shapes, wondering what each device was for. They weren’t familiar as the standard tools of the past.
The lug wrench wouldn’t fit the lugs so how was this going to work? I even had to resort to the owner’s manual. That’s always a man’s last option. It turns out one of the curly wire devices was to remove the lug covers so that the wrench would fit.
Sure enough it fit, but there was no way to turn the lugs. Evidently an over achiever mechanic with an air gun had secured them beyond what seemed like human strength. I broke the second law of manhood and called on employee David Sheets to come help me or offer support.
Luckily David has a little more experience with cars than I do. He also had a can of spray lubricant that he applied to the frozen lug nuts. Eventually we got them loosened enough to move on to the puzzle of my strange looking jack. It took some time to determine which side was up.
Soon the old tire was off and the funny, deflated spare was securely on. Next manual reference was on how to work the provided pump. With jumper cables to connect to the battery, we did trial and error from post to side to pins and such to find the correct match.
I started the engine. We switched on the pump and slowly a driveable spare morphed out of a retracted body. It didn’t quite look right from side to side and rim distance to rim distance but it worked.
Do you know how difficult it is to drive 50 mph or less? Everybody hates me on the interstate. I see a constant blur of drivers zipping past. I think I am going to hang a T-shirt out of the window or drive with emergency blinkers on.