01 May 2009

My Car Elazar and the Problem of the Signal

As many who have ridden in my car in the past while can attest, Elazar has been getting progressively vocal about his feelings and opinions. At first I thought this was just a phase and that he would grow out of it. He didn’t .

His new found power of expression came shortly after his turn signals were fixed. His turn signal box was recalled-ish (Chevrolet has enough problems with them that they will replace them for free but not enough that they send out letters with recall information) and I got his replaced as it often prevented the turn signals from working. The problem was fixed but occasionally Elazar would randomly start clicking.

The first time it happened was just after I dropped Tyler off at the Portland airport early in the morning. The clicker started running and I started to panic. I started flicking the turn signal back and forth trying to get it to stop while praying in my heart that my car didn’t explode. We got home safe.

For the next several weeks Elazar only occasionally clicked, it was almost cute. Still I tried to break him of the habit. I would put him on time out only to have him start back up the moment he was off time out. I would flick the signal in hopes that it would catch some magic lever and stop his tongue. I ever avoid going places that would take a lot of signaling to get to. None of these worked.

The drive to Idaho was fine and mostly filled with my choice of music. In Idaho the problem stayed minimal until near Valentine’s Day. I guess Elazar wanted to let everyone know how much he loved them and how glad he was to serve them. Even when he came back from surgery he was still quite chipper, much like Pollyanna. Something needed to be done.

One Saturday morning we had a long talk and I worked with Elazar. I reminded him that even his inside voice was loud and it made it hard for other people to talk. I suggested that his instrument panel was a much more effective way to communicate his feelings and that perhaps he should use it instead of his clicker. I also took the cover off the steering column to see if I couldn’t find the problem. I couldn’t find anything. I did however hold the signal at so many odd angles that there was a brief sound of sizzle and a small puff of smoke. Knowing I could do little else I took this as my only concession and closed Elazar back up.

The smoke and sizzle did something because for a long while he didn’t make another click, except when signaling of course, and then came the first hot day in Oregon. It wasn’t even very hot, but hot enough. Elazar started clicking as if he was imitating with Rush Limbaugh. At times it was none stop, no matter how I held the signaler he would just keep on clicking. It almost made me want to drive around with my signal on just so the clicking would be quieter, but I didn’t. Instead loud music prevailed and I stopped talking to people while I was driving.

The clicking almost drove me to the point of taking him in the doctor, but before I could take him in I found out that he was in desperate need of tires. Not like when I was younger and we stopped liking the shoes we wore and begged for new ones. No, his tires were so thin that almost anything could have punctured them. The new tires made me too poor to take him to the doctor.  Being poor and the clicking being too bad to live with I took measures into my own hands. I operated.

With the help of my sister Jacklyn I again uncovered the steering column. This part I knew. From my dad I was able to borrow the tool to get to where I couldn’t before. I was able to remove the signaling assembly. (The windshield wipers would like to point out that while they are connected to the signaling assembly they were working quite well and in way the cause of duress.) I pulled the assembly and carefully disassembled it.

The answer was so simple. Elazar was talking so loudly all the time because his ears were clogged and he couldn’t hear everyone and he could barely hear himself. Through time and hot weather the grease that lubricated the signaler’s slide over the contact plates had oozed to fill in the breaks in the contacts. The car thought that the signaler was always on, in both directions! A couple of cotton swaps fixed that.

Happy that I had found Elazar’s problem I started putting everything back together. As I was trying to cram the signal assembly and steering column back together the voice of my father kept playing in my head, “make sure it works before you put it all together.” I ignored the voice. Then it came again. I decided he might have more wisdom than I. Clicking the garage door opener I started my car. Honk! The horn went. “That’s odd,” I thought, “maybe he’s just happy to be able to hear again.

Carefully I backed the car out of the garage and started to turn onto the street. Honk! The horn went. I stopped and slowly turned the steering wheel to the left. Honk, honk, honk! It went. I slowly turned it back. Elazar was silent. I slowly turned the wheel to the right. Hoonnkk, honk, hoonnkk! It went. I thanked the voice in my head for warning before I was compelled to drive my car to work with the car honking on my every turn.

I pulled the car back in and pulled the steering column cover off again. I don’t quite know what all I did, just that in the end the honking stopped and the signal, lights and wipers all still work. Once I had got Elazar all put back together I again carefully backed out of the garage and turned onto the street. Elazar was again silent. I pulled forward and drove down the street. I am sure I must have looked crazy because I kept turning my signal on and off. He only clicked when he was supposed to; I was so happy.

The next morning I drove to work almost feeling like I was driving a new car, a quiet car, a car that mostly kept to itself and when it had something to say it would try its very best to use the instrument panel. Ah the bliss of quietness.

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