Why I Hate to Work on Cars

being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 WEB)

I love my children. I always have. I always will. However, they do, at times, strike fear into my heart. Teaching them to drive was one of those times. Don’t get me wrong, they are all, so far, good drivers and I trust them. I even let them drive my car un-chaperoned. When they came back from a night out with friends; I resisted the urge to run outside and do a visual inspection for scratches or smudges. Then again, my cars are usually very old and well-worn so finding minor damage is difficult.

When Ellice was in High School she survived my driving lessons and expert parallel parking tips. She passed her test, smiled for the camera and received her first driving license. She was proud as could be.

It wasn’t long before the urge to own her own car took over and she started saving her pennies and looking here and there for something cheap, less than $1000, reliable and cool looking. The Lord prepared the way. A neighbor she knew from one of her baby-sitting jobs was ready to sell a car, cheap.

Ellice discussed the issue and had me come to make a manly inspection. I kicked the tires, looked through the windows and even opened the hood to ensure there was an engine inside. To convince the sellers I was a car expert I started the car and revved up the engine. Yep, it was a car and the motor ran. That was the extent of my expertise.

She bought the car and beamed with pride. Her first set of wheels. Freedom was within the grasp of her key chain and the world was before her. After a few months my nerves calmed down when she would roar off to meet friends or attend a play practice.

A few days after the purchase, we discovered the car had cooling problems, a major issue in the tropics. The original owners informed us they replaced the radiator, the hoses and even the blower without a resolution to the problem. On level ground things were OK. However, any uphill climb and the temperature gauge would usually rise faster than the hill. It was such a problem they reduced the price of the car to almost nothing just to get it out of their carport.

I looked at the radiator, the hoses and the fan, everything was where it should be and no water leaks were visible. It didn’t make sense. If the auto shop couldn’t fix this what made me think I could fix it? My engineering mindset just wouldn’t let this go. Engineers can fix anything!

I keep looking, scratching my head and saying “hmm” now and again as if some revelation was passing through my head. Joel was my faithful assistant, as clueless as I was. Finally, I leaned over the radiator and looked into the engine compartment while Joel started the motor. Suddenly, like a revelation, an idea came into my head.

I signaled for Joel to stop the engine. When it was quiet I walked into the house and returned with a small piece of scrap paper. Joel looked at me funny but enjoyed sitting behind the wheel with keys in his hand so he said nothing. I signaled to start the engine once more.

Tearing the corner from the piece of paper I dropped it into the engine compartment. Whoosh, it disappeared into the radiator fan. I dropped another piece of paper which quickly was sucked into the radiator fan. The fan was working. The problem was solved. The fan was blowing the wrong direction!

Joel turned off the engine and I had him crawl under the front of the car. Following my instructions, he located the wiring to the fan, reversed the wires and we did another scientific paper dropping test. This time the paper was blown back onto the engine. A short drive, up the nearby hill, proved the problem was solved and Ellice no longer experienced overheating of her car.

A couple weeks later we received a call from Ellice. The car had died. It wouldn’t start. I drove out and with the help of friends we towed it back to the house. Calling on another friend, who really did know about cars, he told me the timing belt was broken, all the valves were bent and needed to be replaced.

Ordering parts from the USA, reading manuals on car repair, and asking assistance from anyone with two hands, I embarked on the valve replacement and engine rebuilding. Two months later with bruised knuckles, grease covered clothes and lots of assistance from my neighbors we had the car going once more.

It started, but it didn’t run well. It ran rough. I looked through the books, tried this and that but nothing helped. Finally, I asked my mechanic friend for some help. He was great for advice and always willing to help anyone who at least put some effort into their own work first.

He poked, prodded and took a test drive. Then he reached through the bundle of hoses and cables he pushed a loose hose onto a connector. Now things ran perfectly. I was happy, my friend was happy and my daughter was delighted.

The car worked so well we drove it to church a couple weeks later. Then the noise started. I attempted to get the car home but it died along the way. The timing belt had come lose and bent all the valves again! This time it was caused by not tightening one bolt just right.

We sold the car, as is, to some folks desperate to fix up anything to drive. Ellice went off to college. A year later the police called about an abandoned car in my name. The folks who bought the car had fixed it, driven it and abandoned it when the tag expired without transferring the title from my name.

I traded the car to the tow yard to cover the storage fees which were due. They weren’t sure at first but figured they could sell it and come out ahead. They did. I didn’t want to see the car again. A lot of time and work went into fixing the car but in the end all our fixes turned out to be temporary.

When I fix things in my life they don’t stay fixed for long. I am glad to know God is a better mechanic than I am. When it comes to working on my life what he fixes he fixes for good! I’m looking forward to eternity. No car repairs, no lingering cancer, all our tears will be wiped away. The master mechanic will complete the work he has started me, permanently, for eternity!


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