Love and spark plug monkey flanges
I think it’s the spark plug monkey flange, I blurted out before I had a chance to catch myself.
The auto mechanic just stared at me.
“Well, that’s what the other mechanic told me when I had the same problems before,” I said as a way of sounding smart.
The mechanic continued to stare for a few more seconds before an evil little grin traveled across his face like a shark spotting his next tourist for dinner.
“Yeah,” the mechanic said. “I think you’re right. I would have never thought of the monkey flange. It will be $485 to fix it.”
So I paid the bill for my second monkey flange in two years, and vowed that before the week was over, I’d learn more about cars.
Of course I promptly forgot my vow after a particularly good lunch at IHOP.
When my beloved truck, however, quit running with an explosive finale this week, I felt it was time to get my hands dirty. I love my truck, you see, and I never use the word “love” loosely. I’m not like those other guys who get a truck, drive it around for a few years and then dump it because the romance has worn off. Just because the new-truck smell is gone from the relationship doesn’t mean the affair is over. There is something to be said for driving the same vehicle for years. You begin to understand its personality. You become the only one who knows its secrets like how you have to jiggle a certain wire and wait five seconds before stepping on the gas.
And it’s no different for my truck and me. A truck, I might add, that has been faithful for more than eight years and 250,000 miles. Even when I wronged her – waiting 15,000 miles before giving her an oil change – she has never, and I do mean never, let me down.
So when she literally spit a spark plug out from her engine like a big black loogie, I decided to fix her myself.
Now I’m wondering if I should have left well enough alone and courted a certain auto mechanic named Burt.
It’s not that I’m not a macho kind of guy; it’s just that I’ve never had a chance to learn much about cars, engines or exactly what oil does. During my formative years, a time when my father might have shown me how to change oil, replace a starter or tap a sparkplug hole, he didn’t. He didn’t because he couldn’t. My father subscribed to the philosophy that if God wanted us to fix broken things, he wouldn’t have put mechanics, electricians and plumbers on earth. It has taken me years to realize I have a certain skill at fixing mechanical things.
Still, I’m writing this column with knuckles bloodied from hundreds of scrapes, my head ringing from numerous bumps with the hood, my fingers leaving black smudges on the keyboard due to oil and grease that seems to be permanent and enough oil in my shorts to make me feel kind of happy.
Fixing cars is hard work, (I wanted to use a bad word but after working on my truck all day I’ve plum run out) but I’ll keep turning bolts. I’ll keep working on my truck because I want to and because mechanics charge $80 an hour. Which is outrageous if you’re a workingman, or even a writer.
Still, all my hard work will pay off in the end. The next time I take my car to a mechanic, I’ll know exactly what a monkey flange is and where it goes.
Right now, however, I can’t seem to find a description of a monkey flange in my truck repair manual.
Andrew Gmerek is a weekly columnist for the Summit Daily News.
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