The "Down Home" Report  

Posted by Alex Pendragon

It's been three days post-eyelid surgery and I have traded one irritant for another; the "rocks" that the doc cut out of the gland is now replaced by the healing process, which is equally as irritating to my eyeball if not more so. The strange effect on my symptoms is that now, keeping my eyelid shut during sleep seems to be the lessor of the two evils than the previous malady inflicted on me. Now, I blink all day, each blink a stab in the eyes, yet I can't stop blinking. It's a catch-22 of the worst kind.

There's a long train runnin' this hurricane season. Fay had her way, Gustav was WAY off, and Hanna's headed, not Montana, but she's skirting right by us. Then there's Ike, and that one is promising to prove nasty for the folks of Miami, after which we are not sure who he will pester. If he does head our way after landfall, then it will be just like the storms of a couple of years ago that came on land like a lion, and arrived here like a lamb, worn down by geography. If I had my druthers, none of these storms would hurt people the way they do, but that's what happens when humanity crowds into paradise.

I love these simple little eureka moments I get now and then. One problem I've had with the twins (not the daughters) is that they have taken advantage of our worn out and bowed in wire fence to slip under and escape into my neighbor's yard. Then it occurred to me that I could let them run loose in the back forty and not have to worry about their jail-breaking habits simply by tying their lease to our yard wagon. Together they easily haul this thing around the yard as they browse, but that wagon is NOT following them under that fence. I know, because true to form they slipped beneath the wire, but only got as far as the cable tie, and I was able to "reel" them back to our side of the fence. Why did I not think of this before?

I STILL need to replace this fence, though.

If there is ONE thing that scares the the lower-middle-class married couple who both work, it's the dreaded "check engine" light on their only car. We almost have this thing paid off, and now this damn light comes on. Soooooo, I stop off at one of our many auto-parts stores, having heard that they have one of those gizmos that read the dysfunction codes from your car's computor, and sure enough, the nice black lady behind the counter was more than happy, free of charge no less, to bring her little electronic box out to my car, plug it into the recepticle beneath my dash, and ask my cars computor what the fucking promblem is. It turns out that according to gizmo (ALL HAIL THE GIZMO! LONG LIVE THE GIZMO!) the engine is running lean, and the culprit in this "lean-ness" is none other than the oxygen sensor, which apparently is not sensing O2 the way in which it was meant to be sensed. So, being the minister of the holy gizmo and all, she pronounced that she could sell me the said oxygen sensor and even borrowed one of those "fix it your own damn self" books off the shelf and showed me where it was on my car and how easy it would be to replace it. She even "rented" me the special tool needed to remove and reinstall this wondrous device, promising to fully refund my money when I brought the tool back to the store, sorta like a lending library of automotive toolery. Now, contrast this with what would have happened had I brought this vehicle to the good folks at Ford, manufacturers and repairers of these fine automobiles...........I probably would have paid about $80 just for them to plug THEIR gizmo into the same recepticle and read the same code and charge me another $800 to replace the Oxygen sensor, all the sparkplugs, the computor, the catalytic convertor, AND the entire electrical system, and have me sitting in their waiting room all day just like we all do when we go to the doctor to check OUR oxygen sensors.

After I replace this doo-dad myself, I'll check the spark plugs just in case they appear to be fouled and need replacing as well. Now, I suspect this MAY have someting to do with the fact that all our gas stations are now blending in 10% ethenol into our gasoline. Chevy has been marketing their cars as adaptable to either straight gas or 85% ethenol, which makes me wonder if our ordinary engines get bent out of shape having to burn this new blend of gas and moonshine, making our "check engine" lights come on. I hope this is not a trend. I don't LIKE these kinda trends........

The Resident Twin has been very busy here during her off hours fulfilling commissions she has earned burning decorative wooden boxes. The girl has a real talent with this "art form" and her work is in demand. And, she was given a guitar as a birthday gift and is practicing, so that perhaps she can lend some actual home-brewed music to our circle celebrations. I still handle the percussion department, and have two half-way decent drums for that purpose.

I have already made one major assault on the flea problem that has been plaguing Shiloh and the rest of this household. I bought some K-9 Advantix, which worked well enough, but since Lola the cat and Cricket are also infested with these little demons, the relief was short-lived. Well, I ordered some frontline flea killer for the cats, and have also deployed some flea-killing powder for the rugs and other hiding places. This is WAR, baby! You going DOWN!

We had ALOT of deadwood courtesy of Fay to pick up around the property last week. Now, some homeowners would consider a gaggle of sticks and branches to be a mess to clean up, but we think of it as a resource given us by the Green man. Thanks to the cast-offs of our trees, we have plenty of dried out twigs and sticks to use for our ceremonial fires, which means we don't have to go spending money for fire-starter stuff at the store.

We have been looking forward to the stocking of Halloween paraphernalia at such places as Walmart and Target, as we are in great need of a pair of right-sized gargoyles to perch on the posts of our new garden arbor. You'd be AMAZED how hard it is to find just the right size gargoyle to suit one's needs. They have to be just the right size to perch on the top of a 4X4 post, and have the proper demeanor as well. Anne, if you know of any unemployed gargoyles in your neck of the woods, send them for an interview..........they might get lucky!

Speaking of Anne, she is now in the clutches of the American Health care system, in a CATHOLIC hospital, no less. Anybody familiar with Anne of "The Gods are Bored" fame knows she is a druid, and we all know what "Christ's own chosen people" think of Druids and pagans and other such damned peoples. Let's all send positive energy her way, because if you know Anne like I know Anne, then you know that if there WAS a God, he'd love her to death, cause this lady can even make the Gods laugh! At least she has the Fairy folk to guard her........

About this time you expect to hear some rant concerning the sorry state of the world and those folks most responsible for it. If you missed my last post, go back and read it. The world turns. I'm letting it.


Ok, so I go home, I spend something like 20 minutes removing this damned heat shield covering the oxygen sensor, remove the said sensor with a combination of sheer strength and a damn good lever made up of the "special tool", the socket wrench, and a large crescent wrench gripping the end of the socket wrench. I take out the sensor, then take out the replacement, and immediately it is quite apparent these two do NOT remotely look alike. Aside from the design of the business end, the wire harness plug is barely long enough to engage its female counterpart. Oh well, aftermarket parts sometimes take liberties, sometimes in the spirit of being an improvement, so I screw in the replacement, trusting in the Gods of Internal Combustion to protect me from my ignorance and the advice of others.

While I was at it, I decided to check a spark plug to see if perhaps they hadn't fared any better with age then the O2 sensor had, if indeed that was the root of my problem. Again, with amazing show of muscularity (or rather my lack OF it), I removed spark plug number one and examined it. Indeed, it looked rather "worn" and the gap seemed rather large than I remembered gaps usually being, but other than that, it seemed at least functional. So, until I could invest in a new set, I replaced the plug in its hole and connected the wire back onto the terminal.

Or at least I thought I had. More on that later.

So, everything back the way I remembered them to be, I started the car up. With great dismay it immediately became apparent that not only had I NOT solved he problem, I had made it WORSE! Now the engine ran rougher than ever! Sigh.......damn, my fears of this new sensor NOT being the proper part seemed more correct than not based on these new symptoms, so, I figured the best strategy for now was to put the old sensor back, hoping it was actually working fine to begin with, yet hoping it wouldn't help because then I'd have a truly undiagnosed problem on my hand. I did that, put everything away, and decided it best I head on out back to the parts store in hopes of getting them to refund my money for a part that HAD to be the wrong one or maybe even defective. Also, I would have to be picking up THE Wife from work within two hours anyway, so it was time to leave now to allow some time to get to the parts store and return the part.

On the way, the car was insisting that death was at its doorstep, smelling to high heaven of unburned fuel, running on the verge of NOT running, and all around acting very much like Billy when I was trying to lead him where I wanted him to go. Halfway to my destination the "check engine" light started flashing off and on frantically, as if to say "Warning, Warning, Danger, Will Robinson, DANGER!" I drove gingerly, managing the gas petal as to keep the RPM's just in the "Let's go forward, shall we?" range, anxious that at any moment the engine would explode and take me with it.........OK, just afraid that it would overheat and throw a piston or just die till it cooled down again. Allow me my histrionics, OK?

Now I was tying to decide whether to try and make it to the parts store or simply surrender to the Evil Empire and get to the Ford Care place I usually go to have my Fords admitted to automotive CCU. Knowing we would be out of a way to get around as well as emptying out our bank account for the privilege, and against all common sense, I soldiered on to the parts store, hoping against hope that I simply had gotten a bad sensor and that maybe the right one would bring goodness and light to my beleaguered world. Thanks to Persistence, the God of Hopeless Causes, I made it to the store and made my way in to commiserate with the Black Lady, my Lady of the Holy Code Reader.

We discussed the situation. I showed her 8 by 10 color glossy photos of the two sensors side by side to show the obvious disparities in design, hoping the weight of this evidence would silence any arguments that might arise concerning a refund, but we also perused the computer to see if there was a PROPER part that might be more suited to my engine. Indeed, there seemed to be another part (with a different part number but of the same species) that had a longer harness, at least as long as the one hanging off the original. With nothing left to lose, I paid the extra four dollars for the new sensor, but at the same time getting the Saint of Code Readers to come back out and read my malfunction again, perhaps revealing another numerical explanation for my sorrows. This time Deep Thought came back with the original code "engine running lean - bank one", plus a new one, "spark plug misfire detected on cylinder one"! Cue exasperated heavy breathing.........

THEN it occurred to know, putting that spark plug wire back on didn't give me that satisfying CLICK one wold expect when putting one of these things back on; maybe THAT was the cause of this new roughness! So, after much more discussions and expert advice on how much more money I should be spending, I purchased the new sensor AND new spark plug wires AND new spark plugs, that was it.........just felt like a whole new engine........

With Hurricane Hanna passing offshore and bringing the occasional rain squall, I ventured that I could get that specialized tool beneath that heat shield without having to remove it, and by GODS, I DID! In less than a fifth of the time it had taken me to remove that first sensor, and with a lot less effort, I replaced the old one with the second new one, then I took out the spark plug in cylinder one, replaced it with one of the new ones, replaced the old spark plug wire with the new, and made SURE that the boot was as far down on that puppy as it was going to go. THEN (all this is happening in the parking lot), I got in and turned the key..........

SMOOTH does not even begin to describe how much better the engine ran now. With my superior knowledge, skill, and calm demeanor under fire, I had single handedly taken on a four cylinder, single overhead cam, fuel injected engine with an ELECTRONIC ignition system and REPAIRED IT! Yes, folks, I, THE Michael, laughed in the face of transportive tragedy and PREVAILED!

Would you believe,with the help of one sweet lady, one knowledgeable parts man, and whichever entity is most responsible for incredibly good luck, I skirted disaster by the skin of my teeth? Yea, thought so...........

Then I drove smoothly to THE Wife's job site and picked her up. After she described her day, I describe MINE. For once, mine was a tad more interesting............

This entry was posted on Friday, September 5, 2008 at Friday, September 05, 2008 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

6 slick comments


My truck was running crappy so I took it to a local garage, not the dealership. They tried to play mechanic by changing parts. Ended up, after several weeks of getting it back fixed and it wasn't, with a $1700. repair bill. Had a buddy plug in a primitive reader. Turned out it was the O2 sensor - a $50.00 repair. Changed it myself and told the garage to go fuck themselves. They threatened me with litigation and doom. Told them to bring it on. Never did pay the bill.

September 5, 2008 at 11:29 AM

My check engine light was on for going on 5-6 years. No one could figure out what the problem was. Turned out later to be the alternator. *sigh*

I like your auto parts friend.

As for goats, I'm very glad to discover you are smarter than yours. Those goats man, they get into everything.

September 5, 2008 at 8:15 PM

There you go. Hale, conquering hero.

September 6, 2008 at 12:28 AM

Glad you got the car running right. But no, google reader isn't triggered by an update - it has to be a whole new post.

And I hadn't thought about Halloween bringing out the gargoyles. I've been loocking for a garden gargoyle.

September 6, 2008 at 10:49 AM

You went from "Oh no!" to "Oh shit" to "What now?" to "What have I done?" to "Look what I did!" woot! Good work and well done!

September 6, 2008 at 12:28 PM

Glad you got it fixed. Have you ever wondered why the auto makers don't put a display on the computer rather than having to plug in an OBD reader?

September 7, 2008 at 11:02 AM

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