Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Karma of Automobile Maintenance

Our 1990 Corolla was making noise, but the muffler was good. I took it to Dave, a local ridge top mechanic. He figured it was a cracked exhaust manifold. He tried to weld it but cast iron is difficult. Even if the weld holds, the piece is often warped. It sounded bad after I picked it up. I took it back, and he shrugged his shoulders and said it was okay the way it was, just keep driving it.

If I have something, I prefer to keep it in good shape. Unfortunately, paying top dollar for dealer service is off budget. So when a new devotee, Shyamasundara, started doing mechanical work, I took it to him. He immediately identified by ear the manifold was still cracked. He advised me to get a new one and the needed gaskets and he would install it.

Rupanuga has a parts car that is the same model. He said I could take the manifold for free; a nice gesture. I called a junkyard to see how much a used one cost, thinking I would give him something anyway. They didn’t have any, because everyone that came in was cracked. This got me thinking, so I went on the internet and discovered this engine has a cracking problem. If I paid to have Rupanuga’s removed, it might already be cracked; if not, it was an inevitable fate. In which case I would be out the cost of the labor and the gaskets for installation. So I decided to get a new one.

Now the fun began. I called the parts store, and they wanted $130 for a new one and gaskets. I went online, and found a place where I could get the manifold and a gasket kit for $70, shipping included. It arrived and I left the car with Shyamasundara. He brings it back, saying the gaskets (one goes on the engine and one another the muffler system) are wrong. Great. So I go down to a local place get a gasket kit. I take it to Shyamasundara. When he brought the car back, manifold installed, he said the “kit” only had the engine gasket, not the muffler one so he had to reuse the old one, which wasn’t sealing. So I still had a noisy, losing power car.

Not to be deterred, the next time I am in town, I go to a parts store and order the missing gasket. I leaned over the counter and watched the clerk input the information, and saw everything was correct because this time I was making sure. I bring it back to Shyamasundara and guess what? Wrong size. This was starting to get absurd.

Next attempt, my wife went to town. This time she takes the old manifold and makes the parts guy show her it fits. Off, again, to Shyam’s. I parked, and walked up to him to say I finally had it right. CRUNCH. I turn and see that someone backed into my car, and broke the running light. At this point, I had to laugh. The weird turn of events that lead to 4 attempts to get one little part, that I could attribute to bad luck and incompetence on my part. That at the exact moment I had finally gotten it right, something else breaks, that had to be Krsna making a joke. I had to laugh at the futility of it all. I hope He had a good chuckle too.


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