I, and my car, need help

BY RANDALL RIGSBEE, News + Record Staff
Posted 1/17/19

Some people, I believe, have a natural aptitude for auto mechanics, but I’m not one of them.

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I, and my car, need help

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Some people, I believe, have a natural aptitude for auto mechanics, but I’m not one of them.
I can change oil and filters, install a battery, replace a bulb, remove a flat tire and replace it with a spare.
With proper supervision, I can even do a few other, more involved car tasks.
Twice, for instance, I’ve removed worn brake pads and replaced them; but before anyone presents me with certification, I should note that both times I had a more experienced car veteran looking over my shoulder to steer me through the task. Left to my own, I know I’d do it wrong.
Most of what I know about cars – and all I know about troubleshooting car problems – I’ve learned out of necessity.
As a teenager, my first car – a 1977 Volkswagen Dasher that was well-used when I got it and nearly used up by the time I was finished with it – required me to adapt.
I knew, for instance, to keep spare bottles of oil – which I stored in an oil-soaked cardboard box in the back seat – to replenish the oil that constantly leaked from the engine.
Near the box of spare oil, I kept a couple of two-liter soda bottles filled with water, to routinely replenish the radiator.
The Dasher also required I keep an eye on the spark plug, which had a habit of shaking loose. I kept a spark plug wrench in the back seat, also near the spare oil, to address this problem.
Because necessity is the mother of invention, I picked up a few car care essentials during my driving life, so – even though I’d greatly appreciate any help you could offer if you find me stopped along a roadside looking under my hood – I’m not a complete automotive moron.
But my current car has developed a problem that has stumped me and my limited abilities.
In a twist of fate that Murphy, for whom Murphy’s Law is named, would be proud, my car’s front windshield – or some other component nearby – developed a leak around the time our weather turned so wet a few months ago.
First, following a rain, I noticed water (a small amount) puddled on the front passenger floorboard.
A fluke, I thought, optimistically.
Following another, more severe rain, I couldn’t help notice not only more water on the floorboard, but, as I drove, more water pouring from some unseen reservoir behind the glove compartment, enough of it that a little Epsom salt added to the mix would have made a nice foot soak.
I could no longer dismiss it as a fluke, but I was still slow to realize I had a serious problem.
By “serious,” I mean I couldn’t fix it myself.
As more rain fell over the next few weeks, I attempted to investigate and isolate the trouble.
I concluded that the seal around the windshield of my 12-year-old car was compromised, though I admit I had little concrete evidence of this. It just seemed likely.
And I believed my efforts to mitigate the problem with a tarp were working.
That is, until last weekend, when the snow forecast for our area turned out only to be more rain, some of which made it through, under or around the tarp I’d secured over the windshield, eventually finding its way, of course, to the passenger side floorboard.
My troubleshooting and problem-solving skills exhausted by this problem, I’ve figured out what all car owners inevitably do when facing one problem or another: I need professional help.


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