Highlights of my day: $24,000 truck failing to start. Rolled out of bed without coffee, straight into hours of driving from auto parts store to auto parts store. Several misidentified causes. 50-cent piece of broken plastic. Regrettable meal from McDonald’s. It’s 9:32PM at this minute, and my morning coffee is finally brewing right now.
Okay, long form. Sara, my stepdaughter and landlord, set up this neighborhood event today where everybody living on our street comes together to clean out the alley behind our houses. Brush removal, garbage pick-up, tree clipping, and stuff of that nature. 22 people showed up, and they did a great job cleaning up the alley. Of course, being the night owl, I was out cold all day. Mrs E was doing dump runs in her truck (a 2007 Nissan Frontier pickup), and she stalled it on the last trip. It failed to start. Fortunately, this was like right down the street, so she didn’t have to walk more than 50 feet to the house.
She rolls me out of bed and asks me where the jumper cables are. I tell her they went with her old truck when she gave it to my other stepdaughter Gloria. She tells me her Frontier is dead out front. I crawl out of bed, brush my teeth, get dressed, and I see Sara in the living room, who tells me Mrs E is out front getting her truck jumped. Mrs E and the neighbor got her truck running again, so I put my shoes on and we left to get a new battery. Guess what? Battery’s fine. The lube monkey at Wal-Mart (we went there because that’s where we bought the battery) was really insistent that the culprit was the front blower relay, because it was hot and clicked when starting the engine. He also tested the battery, and swore up one wall and down the other, and on his sainted grandmother’s grave, that the battery was still good.
That didn’t really make any sense to us, but the guy works on cars for a living, so whatever. He knows what he’s talking about, right? We went to 3 different auto places, and only one of them had the right kind of replacement relay. So, I pull the old one, install the new one, and what do you know, the truck starts right up. Of course, I don’t trust my automotive repair skills one iota because my daddy was the grease monkey in the family, and he steadfastly refused to show me the ropes out of some misguided fear that teaching me how to fix cars would doom me to following in his footsteps. As a consequence of my dad’s irrational fears, yours truly is not mechanically inclined when it comes to cars, which tends to result in me standing next to a busted vehicle with the hood open muttering “Thanks a lot, Dad” and paying somebody else a king’s ransom to fix whatever broke.
So I tell Mrs E to turn it off and try again. My self-distrust is justified! The thing doesn’t start. I pull the new relay and put the old one back on. It starts! I tell her to try again. No dice, it doesn’t start that time. Okay, obviously, it’s not the relay at this point. And I’ve just about exhausted my automotive abilities, so I suggest we have the store test the battery, just to confirm the Wal-Mart results. Good battery. I’m flabbergasted. We have the starter and alternator tested. Guess what? Nothing wrong with either one of them. I need a photo of Saul Tigh going “What the hell?” for moments like this.
Turns out that the culprit is a little 50-cent piece of plastic. It’s a grommet, actually. A frigging grommet on the clutch pedal that lets the clutch pedal ignition lock close the starting circuit when you push down the clutch all the way. The old one broke in half, so it was basically a 50-50 chance of the truck starting or not. That’s it, a broken 50 cent piece of plastic stops a $24,000 truck from working.
R.C., an employee of the AutoZone store at 9509 Manchaca, is awesome. He’s the one who found the problem and fixed it. Turns out the grommet is a dealer-only part (Really, Nissan? Really?) which Mrs E has to visit the dealer to get on Monday. He whipped up a MacGyver fix to hold the truck over until then. People like him go a long way towards restoring my faith in the human race and the retail sector.
And on that note, I’m going to go have my first cup of coffee.