By Jim Poling
Published Dec. 28, 2017
If there is reincarnation, I want to come back as a motor mechanic.
That’s because my current life has been a series of misadventures with machines that burn fossil fuels.
The latest involve a faithful old truck that will not move until it has been warmed up for 40 minutes, an ATV that shut down because of overheating and a snowblower that never overheats, in fact refuses to start unless its spark plug is warmed with a hair dryer.
I have a woeful history of trying to fix things on my own. It’s not that I am uninterested in motorized things or unwilling to tinker when they break down. But my brain’s tinkering cells go into overdrive and become confused whenever I attempt to fix something.
I tried fixing a cranky snowmobile one time. I seemed to have done everything right until I pressed the starter button and the engine exploded into flames.
Not long after that I forgot to shut the lights on my little sports car and the battery ran down. It was parked on a downward slope and had a standard transmission so the fix was obvious. I would get it rolling downhill, jump in and pop the clutch to get the engine turning.
The slope was slightly steeper than I calculated. The car began rolling and when I tried to jump in, the open door bumped me into the ditch. The car rolled progressively faster toward a sharp bend overlooking the lake.
The car never reached the water, having been grabbed and stopped by a large poplar tree. The auto body shop bill was quite a bit larger than the cost of a battery charger, as I recall.
Then there was the time that a friend gave me an old but perfectly usable snowmobile. It started and ran great just before we loaded it onto the truck. I was going to drop it off at my cottage.
It was mid-February and I was not wearing winter gear, but that was not a problem. I would quickly pull the machine off the truck and drive it the short distance into the cottage where I had winter clothes.
The machine pulled off the truck easily, but would not start. I fiddled with the choke, checked the carb and a variety of other things as hypothermia began to set in. As I shivered and cursed, another snowmobile approached.
Its rider, dressed in black, got off his machine, approached, reached out and turned off the kill switch, then turned the key and my machine roared to life.
The stranger turned and left without a word.
My latest misadventure involved my ATV. I was plowing with it last week when a flashing thermometer symbol appeared on the console. I checked the ATV manual to see what that was about.
The manual said a flashing thermometer means the ATV is overheating and should be shut down immediately.
I went to work trying to find the problem. The radiator was hidden under the plastic hood, which had an entry panel. I got to it, but not before breaking the entry panel locking pins.
The coolant was at its proper level so I put the entry panel in place and secured it with my favourite tool – duct tape. I checked out other parts of the machine, found nothing, but determined the ATV the cooling fan was not working.
Broken cooling fans are a bit beyond my mechanical skills so I called the ATV dealer and made an appointment.
I spent an hour shovelling out the ATV trailer, then loaded the machine, strapped it down and hauled it down the highway to the dealership.
The mechanic asked a couple of questions before logging the machine into the repair line.
“So you say the coolant is fine and you checked the fuse, right?”
Fuse? ATV’s have fuses?
He gave me a strange look, pulled the seat off the ATV then opened a little black box that I always had wondered about but never opened. There were rows of little coloured fuses.
He pulled one fuse out and said: “Yep, blown fuse.”
Later that day I was back plowing, my face cherry red, and not from the cold.