Chaos Attraction

Auto Mechanics Class, Week Four

2014-04-23, 10:30 a.m.

Previous week here.

Disclaimer to all car folks who may possibly be reading this: I am doing my best to remember and recall what the goddamned hell I am talking about here, but this is probably going to be full of incorrect information that I can't just peg in my brain and recall for shit.

Does anyone who's not a car person actually understand what a "tune-up" is? I sure as hell didn't. I figured it meant something like "checking out the entire engine to see if anything was wrong." I guess.... not? Because today's lecture was on the fuel section and how that worked, with drawings and the like, until nearly nine o'clock, and a lot of passing around of various spark plugs ranging from "perfectly fine" to different states of degredation. And the beginning of class (as per usual, I guess) was looking at the engines and tires of the cars left over from the high school class.

I am still trying to keep track of this stuff as best I can, but another girl in class and I were saying that it's just hard to remember while looking from car engine to car engine which things are which, because there isn't a whole lot of visual consistency from car to car. I kinda feel like my presumed ADD is kicking in during these moments because it's hard to remember everything he talks about while looking at the cars, plus I have to stand around and not fidgit or write things down, which is not helping either. I tried to write things down at one point and it was just not working, though. But trying to remember what's what from car to car when things are different and located in different places is making it difficult. I kind of wish we were using the textbooks from the high school or something. At one point we looked at a 72 Dodge Dart in the school's class and HOO BOY, IS THAT ENGINE WEIRD. But they're all weird. Mine is weird compared to Hondas or whatever it is we're looking at, as the folks in class keep saying to me! Oh, that Swedish/German engineering.

That Krakow kid showed up again--not being all rude this time at least, but still without glasses or car and skipping out when we got to the part of actually working on cars. Still don't get that. It was also pointed out last night that one of the two guys with a 2014 car hadn't shown up again after that, but at least we could kinda figure out why. (Happily for me, my car buddy has access to a lot of nice friends' cars.)

Anyway, we eventually got to the "tune up" portion of class and I was all curious to see what we'd do. The answer is:

(a) take out one of our spark plugs (note: you only have to check one, not all four) to see how it's holding up. I have it written down that the last time I took the car to the shop for anything major, it had the spark plugs cleaned, so I was relatively sure this should be okay for me.
(b) check the air filter to see how dirty it is.
(c) unplug and check the PCV valve to make sure that it makes a noise when you shake it, which it is supposed to do if things are going well.

And that's....apparently it for a tune-up. That's all you do?!

So my car buddy and I checked our cars. His friend's car (the one with the washed engine, a Saturn) had fine spark plugs and a fine air filter and the PCV valve seemed fine. We'd learned where his spark plugs were from the engine washing, so we had that down. But when we got to my car, we were all, "Um, where the heck are they?" So we started unscrewing the cover on the big ol' thing in the middle--I am so proud of actually managing to do that, hah--and at first found two things that were really weird. I was told later they were the coils. The spark plugs were eventually found in there, and we unscrewed them. My buddy was worried about mine, but the teacher deemed them okay, if kinda dirty because I drive around town more than I take long-ass drives to the Bay Area. (He's big on saying that it's better if you drive you car huge long distances than around town...I wish I could remember the explanation for why, something about how there's burnoff or not. What it boils down to is, your spark plugs are more likely to be covered in slimy/oily/black stuff if you drive around town more than anything else.)

The teacher did find my air filter to be questionable, though. As in, you'd probably need to change it in 10,000, 20,000 miles, "but you won't be in class then, and it's cheap to do, and you might as well do it next week." Okay then. And I don't have a PCV valve....the Volvos do something weirder and less reliable, apparently, but it wasn't something that we could check. Anyway, I got home by 10:30, which is very quick for this class.

I also forgot to mention that he talked to us about getting a tool bag. And by tool bag I mean specifically, "a big ol' leather purse you found at a thrift store." I am not kidding. He was totally unashamed to bust out several purses and talk about how well they work as a tool bag, and offer prizes (some kind of combination tool doodad) if you brought one in next week. I'll try to remember to look into that.

Next week is the first "open class" in which we're just supposed to work on whatever needs fixing on our cars. So I guess I'll be doing the air filter. What else shall we do for three hours? I don't know. Kick the tires? Clean the headlights?

I should mention that I have been e-mailing a coworker of mine who switched to another area of our office and she called me "priceless" after reading it. Whatever that means, eh?

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