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Oh Two Sensors, A Kitty-Litter Converter, and Other Mysteries About My Wife’s Car
by Dan Vander Ark
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My wife’s car isn’t quite a lemon, but it’s close. Whatever fruit comes just before lemon in the “how reliable is your car?” fruit rating system, that’s where our car is at (kumquat maybe?) In fact, it seems abnormal NOT to have the check engine light on. We have replaced the crank sensor, 3 coil packs, one head gasket, the wheels (not the tires, but the WHEELS), and a multitude of other million dollar parts. When the head gasket started going bad I tried to sell the car to one of my coworkers, but he didn’t bite. I told him it didn’t really run that bad – all you had to do was replace the number 3 sparkplug each morning and then you were good for the day! I even said I would throw in some spark plugs, but for whatever reason, he didn’t want to buy it.

So this past week when the check engine light came on just four days after having it “fixed” (and I use the term “fixed” in the loosest possible meaning of the word), I again had to contact the mechanic. His response? “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” Not really, he’s a very good mechanic, but he just can’t figure out why I should be having so much trouble with this make and model of car. “I have never heard of this happening before” is a common expression he uses whenever I tell him about the newest car problem.

But this time I decided to first try one other thing before I took it to the mechanic. I knew that the local auto parts store loaned out tools so I thought maybe they would loan out one of those mysterious Auto DaVinci Code readers (you know…one of those little hand-held “check engine light” gadgets). And perhaps they would also help me interpret the code. So I asked if they loaned them out for normal citizens to use. They didn’t but one of their employees would gladly hook it up and read the code out in the parking lot (and help decipher it).

And all this for free! I will have the “check engine light” code read for less than the cost of the car itself.

So out she came with the magical instrument to read the check engine light code. And I guess it’s not really a “Check Engine NOW” light.” When mine comes on it simply says this, “Service Engine Soon.” And I have to confess – I see it more as a suggestion light rather than a warning light. If it really was a warning light, wouldn’t it shout out in big bold red letters something like, “HEY! ARE YOU AN AMOEBA? GET TO THE MECHANIC NOW! Instead, it’s just sort of a warm and friendly sunset golden color light that softly whispers in a Minnesota nice tone, “I know you’re having a hard day, but maybe you should think about taking your car in to your mechanic whenever it fits into your schedule.” And another thing…how do you interpret “soon?” Is that “soon” as in “Your Engine is going to Explode in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 KABOOM!” soon? Or “soon” as in “The Minnesota Vikings are going to win the Super Bowl soon!” soon? (Meaning your car will have long since returned to iron ore before you have to worry about it).

She plugged it in, and under her instructions I turned the ignition to “ON.”
I thought I heard her say, “Oh my, Oh dear! Whoa…I’ve never seen that before!”
I quickly stepped out of the car to look. “What? Never seen what?”
It was probably just the glare of the sun but I thought I saw the screen say “EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE REPLACED! With the picture of lemon next to it.

“Aha! Its saying your O2 Sensors are bad.”
“Oh, Two Sensors? I have two sensors for what?” I asked
“Not “Oh-Two” sensors,” she replied, “O2 sensors – oxygen sensors.”
Now I was starting to think, “What do I have oxygen sensors for? Like when I go through Beartooth Pass in Montana or Wyoming or wherever that mountain pass is located…it senses the lack of air and O2 masks will drop down from the head liner?”

She continued, “I think you have one in the engine compartment and one underneath by the kitty-litter converter.”
Now I am like totally befuddled. My car converts kitty litter to energy? No wonder the Japanese have moved ahead of Ford and GM. But I later learned it’s not a kitty-litter converter, it’s a catalytic converter. Sometimes I don’t hear so good. Like all these decades I thought Julie Andrews in the movie “Mary Poppins” was singing, “Super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.” I just recently learned IT’S NOT LIKE THAT AT ALL! I always wondered why she would be singing about a bitter and brittle old wiseman that had bad breath.

“You have one in the engine compartment and one under the car, and this first one is saying that your left bank is lean?”
Now I am somewhat overweight according to the governmental standards, but I NEVER thought it was causing my car to lean.
“And,” she continued, “Your right bank is also lean.”
Lean to the left, Lean to the right, stand up, sit down, my car ain’t right!”

She then asked if I wanted the SERVICE ENGINE SOON light cleared out so it would turn off.
“You can just clear it out without me having it fixed? I asked in an astonished tone.
“Yep,” she replied.
I wanted to hug her.
“Yes!!! By all means…Clear it out!”

Because I prefer denial over reality, I just put a piece of duct tape over the SERVICE ENGINE SOON message board area. I am guessing the light is on. And I guess I will service the engine soon…as soon as the Vikings win the Super Bowl.

Dan Vander Ark
Copyright 2008
All Rights Reserved

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