December 2nd, 2009


Song Info (from Beatlesongs):”Matchbox” is on the With the Beatles album and was written by Carl Perkins, who hadn’t been able to make a hit of it. The Beatles’ version got as high as 17 on the Top 40. Pete Best sang lead on it in concerts until 1962 when John Lennon took over. Sure sounds like Ringo on the recording, though.

I’ve been driving a 1999 Saturn Wagon for a while now and it’s been a mostly reliable little car for me. It’s only got 129,000 miles on it, so it should be good to go for quite some time — keeping in mind that I drove an Oldsmobile Calais to 212,000 miles and it was ready to go a bunch more when I sold it. Sadly, though, I don’t think the Saturn is going to make it as long as the Calais.

Two weeks ago I went to pick up Megan at her apartment so we could go work at our church’s Community Center. When we got back down to the car, it wouldn’t start. There were lights on the dash and the headlights came on, but it wouldn’t turn over nor click. Not cool.

The first thing I do in these situations is call Dad. He knows most cars better than most people, and I can’t tell you how many times he’s been able to diagnose a problem over the phone, sometimes by hearing the car run and sometimes just by hearing a description of how the car runs. As far as I know, he’s pretty much the best mechanic ever.

So I called him and told him what I knew and he gave me few suggestions, but none of them were working this rainy, chilly night. We were able to jump it using her car and I was able to drive it to the Auto Zone across the street from her place, but once there, it was unstartable and unjumpable. The fine folks there were able to test my battery and said it was bad, so I bought a new battery…and it didn’t change a thing. Still no starting.

It should be mentioned that at this point I had called my friend Pete, who is the “car guy” in our immediate circles. He was able to wrangle the battery out and the new battery back in, a skill I did not possess. Alas, even Pete was stumped by the issue. I had no recourse but to call a tow truck and have it towed to Pep Boys (who I shan’t be linking to for reasons that will become evident shortly).

They were closed by that time in the evening, so I bummed a ride from a coworker the next morning and got there soon after they opened. It’s a short walk from there to Barnes & Noble, so I went there, got a hot chocolate, and bummed their free Internet until I heard from Pep Boys. Rather, that’s what I intended. What actually happened was that I called them after three hours because I hadn’t heard from them. This is what they said:

Well, we couldn’t find the problem, but we were fiddling with some wires under the dash and now it’s starting and we can’t get it to not start anymore. We want to look at it a bit more and we’ll let you know what we find.

So I guess that was good and bad – working is good, not knowing why is bad. Also, as it turns out, “we want to look at it a bit more” is good but “we’ll let you know” means “when you call back after three more hours of not hearing from us.” Sigh. In the end, though, they didn’t charge me anything since they couldn’t figure it out, so all I was out was one vacation day from work.

Fast forward to last night. Same deal: I spent the evening with Megan (it was Spaghetti Night!) and when I went to leave, my car didn’t want to start. So I called Dad again. He’d been looking into it, figuring that since it wasn’t technically fixed, it would probably stop working again at some point. He had me check a few more things, then said I needed to check a few connections with a tester.

Yeeeeeeeeeah. It was at this point that my Dad apparently started speaking in fluent Greek. I knew he was capable since I’d heard it before, always in conjunction with explaining car stuff. I was able to figure enough of it out to realize I didn’t have what I needed with me at that moment, so I made plans to talk to him this morning when I was better prepared. Megan loaned me her car so I could get home and get back in the morning.

This morning I dutifully tested the things I was supposed to test and relayed to Dad what I was finding. Somehow he was able to figure out from what I was saying what the probable cause was, circuit-wise. Armed with this information, the following things happened today:

  • Called the towing company, had to leave a message
  • Called the towing company again, talked to a lady who said “The lines are crazy, I will hang up and call you right back!”
  • Called the towing company again 15 minutes later after not hearing from them, talked to a different lady who said they’d be there in 20 minutes.
  • 45 minutes the tow truck arrived
  • Had the car towed to Pep Boys, got a ride from the towing guys
  • Went inside, explained what was happening
  • Was told “Uh… we can’t really work on that sort of thing”
  • Called secretary at church to see where was a good place to take cars
  • Called CarX, they were willing to look at it
  • Called towing company – “They’ll be there soon and give you a ride”
  • Called towing company 45 minutes later – “Hey, how soon will they be here?”
  • Was told “Oh, they already towed your car there.”
  • Arghed
  • Walked across State Road 52 to CarX, at great risk
  • Talked to Mike, explained what I knew
  • Walked back across 52 to McDonald’s, then Best Buy, then Barnes & Noble
  • Mike called me back! Like an hour and a half later!
  • Walked back across 52 to CarX – I am a decent Frogger player
At this point, Mike had good news and bad news for me. The good news was that he had found the problem: the place where some wires connected to one of the fuseboxes was all messed up. The bad news was that he couldn’t fix it.
He recommended another place to me, but had more good news for me – a way to get it working until such time as I could get it the parts replaced:

“What you do, see, is jiggle these wires right under here…”

2 Comments on “Matchbox”

  1. Marshall says:

    Mentally I totally just read the "Yeeeeeah" CSI Miami style:

    …said I needed to check a few connections with a tester.
    (puts on sunglasses)

  2. Theo B. Scure says:

    Cars are cars all over the world.

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