The Little Engine That Clicked

My trusty Lexus wouldn’t start this afternoon. It just said, “click.” I said, “shit.” And it said, “click” again. I didn’t think I needed to say anything else.

The problem began a couple of weeks ago. It would say “click,” but then it would say, “vroom!” Then the problem went away for a while. It happened again last Friday and the battery connections got a thorough cleaning. It started perfectly for almost a week, until today. Shit.

Both times it said “click” this evening, a jump-starter got the car to go again. So I hope it’s just the battery. But the battery was brand new last August. The starter was brand new in 2011. And even if all it needs is a new battery, I’ve got appointments tomorrow. I’ve got a trip to northern California in a week. It’s gonna be a while before I stop dreading the “click” when I turn the key.

I hate car trouble.  It makes me nervous. It makes me use bad language. It makes me question the material efficacy of the universe.

I was telling my Dad this afternoon that together we’ve been dealing with this sort of thing periodically for 38 years, when I was 16 and he was 45. Now I’m 54 and he’s 82, and having a car that won’t start and might cost anywhere from $0 to $1200 to fix still takes pretty much the same mental and emotional toll on me as it did then. (Though in 1977 $1200 would buy a lot more of a car than a starter.)

He said, “it’s an inconvenience.” And he’s right. It’s an inconvenience, not a problem and it’s absolutely vital to modern human sanity to be able to recognize the difference. But I prefer to the term, “manifest and unsettling pain in the ass.”

By the way, can anybody explain to me what evil possessed the Toyota engineers, that they put the starter under the engine’s manifold? Pernicious plot, I say.

I need a new battery, I might need a good and honest and not-to-expensive mechanic, and I probably need at least 50 minutes with a good psychiatrist.

F–kin’ Click, is my point.

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5 thoughts on “The Little Engine That Clicked

  1. Thank you for the comments. It’s true that the people around me are what really matter in this situation, as in any. The starting problem picked the last day before my repair appointment to get much worse. But I managed after many tries to start it and drive to my parents’ house, just a couple of miles from mine.
    Although it’s Father’s Day and Sunday, I had some errands to run. So my Dad has been chauffeuring me around our little town on his day of rest. He’s that kind of father. I’m blessed.
    Our dog posted a photo of Dad on her blog today: http://goo.gl/73vxPs

  2. We have a wonderful trustworthy VW Passat – wonderful that is until it let in water and became a travelling swimming pool that wouldn’t lock because the electrics were messed up. And then of course we discovered the pool-in-the-Passat is a common problem and easily fixable by keeping a filter flushed regularly, only VW or their garages won’t tell you this. All fine now, but it was a whole stressful summer before we fully understood what was going on, when we were never sure if we could actually get into the car, lock it and drive anywhere.
    I did read somewhere that these stupid little things (that really are only minor inconveniences) actually seem worse than they really are because we save our coping mechanisms for the big stuff. I also think it’s something to do with not being able to understand or control this stupid stuff that’s thrown at us.
    But anyway what really comes through to me in your piece is your relationship with your dad. I recall my Dad spending many a Sunday fixing the car – he had to sit on an old sheet on his armchair after lunch which I found highly embarrassing and I now find sweetly funny – not sure why! Good luck to you both for many more miles of motoring over there on the wrong side of the road. (OK as long as you all do it!)

  3. Update: I don’t need a battery, I need a starter. Fortunately, I have a good and honest and not too expensive mechanic. So the car gets fixed on Monday. Funny thing: About the placement of the starter under the intake manifold, where it takes a professional 6 hours to fix it, the mechanic said It’s a brilliant design, if you never have to fix it.

    Having met the worse case scenario, the right and God-made sun has risen again, for all and without distinction. (Paraphrasing Cormac McCarthy.)… And since I have coffee, I suppose the psychotherapy can wait. 🙂

  4. Lol! That part- By the way, can anybody explain to me what evil possessed the Toyota engineers, that they put the starter under the engine’s manifold? Pernicious plot, I say. – Is so justly said ! Good luck with the car (or the battery).

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