Long Term (Vehicle) Relationships

(Posted to a local email group in February 2006) A few days ago I reached another one of the Mileage Milestones


on my 89 Plymouth Voyager, which got me to thinking about when it would be time to move on to my next vehicle, and about my long term relationships with past and present vehicles in general (I think a lot of female readers just went on to the next email - hey, it’s a Guy Thing).

I was one of those kids who took everything apart to figure out how it worked. Reassembly success was spotty, especially in the younger years. We had a Sears two-wheeled “garden tractor” with a big old Briggs and Stratton single cylinder engine on it. It, too, succumbed to my youthful wrenchings, and I was fascinated to discover all the shiny parts inside that made it go. I even managed to get it put back together again. The first time I pulled the starter rope and it went chuff!-pop-chug-chug-chug… well, I’ll never know what it is like for a woman to grow a baby in her body and deliver it to life - but for a young guy that was probably about as close as he’ll ever get. Going from a collection of oily pieces of metal to a running engine - Wow! - brain surgeons had nothing on me! I found the whole thing so thrilling I pulled that engine apart a number of times, every time learning more about what each part did and how they all worked together.

My stepfather had a Gulf Service Center (you did not call it a “gas station” unless you were in the mood for a long and boring lecture). When I was in high school and had my first old clunker (1952 Plymouth) I’d go down to the station (in DC) and use the lift, tools and service manuals at night.


One night I decided to see what was in my transmission (I knew how to have fun!) There was a full set of Motor’s Auto Repair Manuals there, so what could go wrong? With the car up on the lift it was easy to drop the transmission and it came apart pretty quickly. After I had satisfied my curiosity about the innards I was starting to put it back together, reading the pages of the manual as I went. I came to the part about setting a big cluster gear in the case, although first I was supposed to put in a “dummy shaft” to hold about 30 or 50 little needle bearings in place. I looked all over the parts blowups trying to figure out which was the “dummy shaft”. I should have been looking in a mirror. [Read more…]