Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Cedar Springs, Michigan

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I bought another motor home about two weeks ago, from a private seller. It's a 1988 Winnebago, build on a Ford Econoline chassis. This is a picture of it, and it's appropriate that you should see it in situ, as it were, in my driveway, because it hasn't started since I got it home and backed it into its present spot. It doesn't crank at all. With some help from my son-in-law I've tried to trouble-shoot the problem, removing the solenoid and starter and getting them checked out, and having the battery charged. So far, nothing has helped. I have one more little gizmo to check out and then I think I've exhausted my limited knowledge.

My son-in-law, in an effort to help, asked a friend of his what the problem might be, adding, "I don't know much about Ford electronics." The friend replied, "Neither does Ford." I must say that my lifelong prejudice against Ford products is beginning to come out. Like many of you who read this, I was raised in a GM environment, and we always understood that FORD stood for "fix or repair daily," "frequently overhauled, rarely driven," or "found on the road dead."

Ironic, perhaps, that of the Big Three, as they were once known, the one that should have ended up in the best shape, and in all likelihood most worthy of surviving, should have been Ford. But there it is. Were it not that so many more jobs would have been lost and so many of my old friends probably would have been fucked out of their pensions (even more so than they already have been), I would have been happy to see GM and Chrysler die off completely in this country, as they so richly deserve to, thanks to the incredibly short-sighted and incompetent ways of their ruthlessly greedy and reckless owners and managers.

People have lots of weird explanations for why GM, especially, has tanked in recent years, almost none of which bear much relationship to reality. For instance, I'm always amazed at how many otherwise smart people have bought into the palpably ridiculous idea that the American car companies have done poorly because they are saddled with more expensive safety regulations than, say, the Japanese. There are only a few things wrong with that argument. First, it doesn't explain why Ford is still solvent and only GM and Chrysler are moribund. Second, it ignores the fact that most foreign cars for the U.S. market are assembled right here in this country, subject, I daresay, to the same wicked regulations that the rest of the companies are. And third, even if they weren't, who in their right mind would imagine that places like Japan and Europe would have less stringent safely regulations than we do? We're talking about modern social democracies that actually feel responsible for the welfare of their workers and citizens, not places like the U.S. that only pretend to.

Which is not to say that I think Ford has been doing everything right. Probably they have succeeded in getting a larger number of their component parts made outside the country, where labor is cheaper. But just maybe they did give some thought over the past two decades to trying to compete with the Japanese for the small and mid-sized car market, instead of just selling gas guzzling SUVs to suburban housewives for a quick profit. I don't know. It does seem that all three of the U.S. car companies make a hell of a lot of their money dealing ridiculously large vehicles of all kinds, including selling lots of oversized pickup trucks to guys who otherwise would be buying male enhancement products on late night TV.

In saying I wouldn't mind seeing GM and Chrysler go down the tubes I don't mean that I'm opposed to the government having become involved in the situation. Not me. I love the idea of the government owning car companies. I think all industry should be nationalized. But of course we didn't go about it that way. We just gave the money to the same pigs who have been running things all along, and said "Go and sin no more." Give me a government bureaucrat over a capitalist or a bushy-tailed entrepreneur any day of the week. Those business guys are the ones who scare the hell out of me. At least the bureaucrat works for the people, and not for himself.

Well, you're thinking, leave it to Pete to turn his motor home troubles into a political screed. But hey, the right wingers find a way to twist everything their way, so what the hell? And we can all, when the chips are down, blame everything on the Chinese.

Back to the motor home, I think I'm just about at the point where I'm going to have to get it towed somewhere and get the starting problem fixed the right way. After that I have to get a couple more things taken care of. It needs a new refrigerator and a generator, as well as a minor tweak here and there. But getting the vehicle is a start, and has me thinking about the open road.

P.S. If any of you gearheads out there have any last minute advice about the starting problem before I bite the bullet and send it to the shop, I'll be happy to receive it.

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