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Silencing the Critics

I am blessed to have good men in my church who know about cars, but recently I was insulted by the suggestion that I am so mechanically-handicapped that I could not even check the oil. That stung because it is just one more nasty rumor about me that I have to deal with. Not only do I know how to check the oil, but I wrote instructions for others on this very subject some time ago. Let the slanderers be put to silence.


It is true that I spend most of my life behind a desk and that I will never make a name for myself as a mechanic, but oil checking is not beyond my personal ability. In fact, I think that everybody ought to know how to do this very important task. Let me help you through the process. It’s not brain surgery, but it’s almost as complex and you might find it useful to laminate this piece of paper and store it in your glove box so that it is handy when you need to check your oil which, by the way, should be changed every three miles or five thousand years, whichever comes first.

The first part of oil checking is opening the hood of the car. The first few times you check the oil – say within the first ten years you own the car – it is hard to find the little thingy inside your car that you are supposed to pull in order to open the hood but generally once you have found the handle three or four times it gets easier. After you find it, pull it. Don’t panic if you hear a little pop. Apparently that is normal with most vehicles and no car maker has figured out how to eliminate that sound.

Once you hear the little pop, you would think that the hood was open, but no, you’re only half way through the first task. Forget trying to yank the hood up just because you can insert your fingers underneath the lip. I did that once for about fifty times in a row and finally when I could no longer hear because of the deafening bang, bang, bang, I guessed that there must be another lever right under the lip of the hood that one has to push (or pull depending on the make of your car) to release it. It is useless to attempt getting a look at it. The car makers have deliberately made it impossible to see with the naked eye so that you get your hands dirty, tear a nail, and lose your composure in the process of feeling for the lever. It’s a car maker conspiracy, I think, to make the lives of happy car drivers like myself miserable just because they have the unfortunate lot in life of being mere car makers. Anyway, never fear, you will find the lever, but you might want to make sure you have a supply of band-aids in the car. (I would put it near the hood opener thingy so that you can find them quickly since you so recently had just located that part of your car and it is likely to be fresh on your mind).

The third step is one of the most thrilling parts of oil checking. Once the hood is open you should by this time feel quite confident, if not relieved. Now, you have to keep the hood open. One of the marvels of modern cars is the hood-holder. It looks like a stick. I can not tell you how valuable this tool is. I checked the oil hundreds of times holding the hood with my head, until I found this device which had been in my car all along. My delight was hardly dampened by the disgust I felt toward the car dealer who had not told me of this nifty addition to my car. He had, of course, told me about the CD changer, the automatic doors and seats, and some other nice things, but he did not say the least thing about the hood-holder. It’s part of the conspiracy thing, I bet. I just hope I didn’t pay extra for it. Of course, it is now one option I could not do without.

Anyway, the stick should be somewhere in front of the thing that holds water and looks like a metallic mille-feuilles. Carefully check both sides of the stick and pull up on the side that is not permanently attached. The car makers don’t give you a choice of which end of the stick you want to use and I have found that it is best to let them score a point in this area. You’ve got to pick your battles.

Once the hood is held up, you have the freedom to move as much as you need to find the dipstick. I used to be paranoid about the name dipstick, but now I know why it is called dipstick. It is named after the guy who placed it in the most unreasonable spot of the engine. Of course, I do not know where I would place it, but I certainly wouldn’t place it where it is because I spend a good fifteen minutes searching for it every time I check the oil. Dipstick is the kindest name I can think of for the fellow and I wonder what kind of pay raise he got from the conspiring car makers for his crafty contribution to the misery of happy car drivers like myself.

Once you have the dipstick located, take heart. You are almost done! Pull on that thing until a long, floppy metal thing comes out.

There. I’ve told you what I know. Please don’t ask me what you’re supposed to check at this point. I get so frustrated when people ask me that when I have been so thorough up to this point.

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One Response

  1. What you’re saying then is, all those rumors I’ve told about you being mechanially declined aren’t true? But I thought there was some rule about pastors not getting along with tools. That’s why they stand around and supervise while the rest of the men build houses and install furnaces.

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