Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Pet Peeve from a Suthunah Wannabee

Suthun Men can do just about anything. They can hunt, they can fish and they repair just about anything given a paper clip and a fresh roll of duct tape. The good Suthunah buys Duck tape not by the roll but by the case.

Suthun men also seem to be able to work on an automobile as if it were an extension of their very selves. There are 3 auto parts stores within a mile of my house giving proof to the Do-it-Yourself attitude of the Suthun Male...And to be sure, I know one couple where SHE is the one under the chassis and HE is the one standing by with the lemonade and sandwiches (and they are really good sandwiches.)

We have a nice 10 year old car with which we have tried to take the utmost care. Regular work, oil changes, the constant care is important as cars age. We aren't in the position to get a new one and this one is our only vehicle. In true DIY style, over the past few years I've personally replaced a fuel pump, brake pads, thermostat and even the battery (oh wait, that was an easy one.)

Ok, so this brings me to my Pet Peeve. Story time: (no need for wavy visual effects or harp glissando...let's just get to it.) The car broke. The key wouldn't turn in the ignition and we were left with no alternative than for me to replace the key switch. Had to wait til Saturday, but that's not what peeves me.

Peeve number 1: Instructions. In preparation for the repair, I researched the steps needed to replace the key switch. (I had never done it before and wanted to be a bit more informed.) They seemed simple enough and with a printed copy handy I prepared for the project. I ordered the parts and picked them up at the Auto Parts store right there in the shopping center where I hop off the bus every day. Again, it's only a 1.12 mile walk to home, so it's not that bad.

Saturday morning. Ok, now we're in it. The instructions say "Remove the 10 screws which hold the dashboard in place. " What the instructions DON'T say is that there are only 5 screws AND there are actually 2 different kinds of screws. The first is, of course, Phillips (ok, easy peasy, I always have a screwdriver handy with both standard flat and phillips heads) but the second is a hex bolt. I had to go through all my sockets until I found that it was a 10mm hex head. (Seriously? METRIC? On an AMERICAN CAR? Who designed this?)

Oh, but wait, it gets worse. The instructions ALSO DON'T say that you have to remove the upper part of the dash, and there is no way for the average Suthunah to know that this thing is just popped into place with a couple of spade fittings. I searched around for screws for several minutes. Ok, so I got that removed.

Finally got down to the insides and found AGAIN that the instructions are WOEFULLY inadequate. "Remove the two screws which hold the unit to the steering column" neglects to say that you will need a special SECURITY bit. A mile walk to the auto parts store to buy the dang thing and then a mile back to get the job done. And that's the way it goes, constantly on instructions of this sort. "Disengage the Actuator Rod" What? How does one 'disengage' the actuator rod? No clue. (Let alone the fact that a guy such as me doesn't even know what an Actuator Rod is, or does!) Finally figured out that once you take the screws out of the ignition switch itself (this is not the key part) you have to press in on a couple of plastic flanges and pull off the ignition switch to remove it. THIS is what disengages the Actuator Rod. (I swear sometimes the way these things are written is just to mess with your head!) The Actuator Rod, for those of you who are wondering, is a rod assembly which connects from the Key Cylinder to the Ignition switch.

BUT we're not done. Here's where Pet Peeve Number 2 comes in. In order to get the key switch out, you have to turn the key to the 'accessory setting.' If the switch is broken and you are unable to turn the key (which is, by the way, the reason I have to replace it in the first place!) HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO GET THIS DONE? I would imagine that this would entail removing the entire steering column, removing the wind-shield and maybe even dropping the engine to get the thing apart. Who's freaking idea was that? (Yeah yeah, I know, is' a 'SECURITY' feature. To me it's a PITA!*) At least I did get it done.

How did I get this done? In true suthun manner. A hammer. In my frustration at not being able to turn the key I smacked the end of the key with a hammer. I heard something sort of 'click' (read: break) inside the unit and suddenly I was able to turn the key. I contemplated simply leaving it ... yeah, for about .01 seconds. All I need is for the lovely wife to be out and about shopping and suddenly the key wouldn't turn while she sat in the Suthun Heat with melting ice cream in the sack next to her. (Oh dear lord, not the ice cream!!)

Once I got the key switch out, the entire process was mostly complete. The new key cylinder slipped in place, all the screws went back in quickly (no problems since I had the 10mm socket AND the Security bit handy) and the car turned over easily. We went out and tested both keys later that day, doing our weekend shopping and I'm happy to report that I have completed yet another repair.

You will also be happy to know that I have NOT put a hit out on any of those people who wrote the instructions.

A true suthun gennelman does not hold a grudge.

*PITA: No, it's not a bread pocket, it's an anagram, and stands for
Pain In The A$$.

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