In the absence of mechanical genes, Google to the rescue

I’m not much of a mechanic. Actually, I’m not the least bit mechanically inclined. So, last week when my truck started shaking every time I pressed on the accelerator I did what any red-blooded American man does in that situation: I pulled into a gas station.

I filled the tank — assuming that the culprit was watered-down gasoline from a previous fill-up — revved the engine, and detected no shimmy or shake.

Then I popped the hood. It took several minutes just to figure out how to get the hood up, and in the process I bruised my fingers feeling around for the latch that releases the catch to raise the hood. I leaned over the side of my truck to see what the trouble might be.

If a hole had appeared in the engine, I probably would have guessed that might be part of the problem. If black, stinky smoke were billowing out of some hose, valve, or turbocharger I would have surmised that could be the issue (but I would’ve had to know what a turbocharger looked like).

If I had noticed some part dangling about, I would have bet good money that was the problem.

But I saw none of that stuff. All I saw was a bunch of wires, all plugged into what seemed to be all the right places. I saw a big black block — the engine — with no apparent damage. It looked like no engine I have ever worked on (the number of those would be one: a flat-head, six-cylinder 1947 Chevy coupe on which my dad and I pulled the head to replace a gasket).

Bottom line, I had no clue what I was looking for and would not have known what to do had I found something. But popping the hood is what a guy does when his ride starts to falter.

I climbed back in and we (Pat was with me) headed on our way. Did I mention we were off to the airport to catch a 2:15 flight?  It was already 11:00 and we were still 90 minutes out.

Things ran smoothly as we drove back onto the freeway — until I pressed down on the accelerator. The shaking continued, so I slowed down. Downhill was no problem. Uphill was seismic. The engine light came on. I hate when that happens.

I suggested we find a garage. Pat agreed and started a Google search. I do enjoy technology occasionally. She started with the Pep Boys, but Manny, Moe, and Jack weren’t in the neighborhood. Look for the nearest Ford dealer, I suggested, knowing that the repair cost just went up several dollars, but also assuming that one would be available near the highway in the next town, which was near and large enough to support car dealerships.

Google came through. We pulled into the dealership at about 11:45, hoping for an easy solution and a quick fix. I explained the symptoms to the service rep. “It sounds like an ignition coil,” he said.

With admirable restraint, I did not reply, “Yeah, that’s what I figured.” But I wanted to.

And by the way, we missed the flight.

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