Cedar Springs, Michigan
Saturday, September 18, 2010
The starter saga continues. Monday I bought another one, and Tuesday I put it in. It started the motor home just fine, but continued to make a sort of metallic ringing noise afterwards. This didn't bode well, so I turned it off immediately. It sounded very much as if metal was still interfacing with metal within the starter, even after the starter's job was done. I looked all around, crawling under the vehicle to make sure the sound was coming from there, and I was pretty sure it was. (I thought of Billy Bob Thornton, in the movie Bandits, looking around desperately, asking "Does anybody else hear that ringing?!")
I slid back under the motor home, where I was starting to get quite comfortable, not to mention rather adept at installing and removing the starter. I took the new one off and had a look at it, not expecting to see anything useful to my investigation. But when I compared the new starter to the old one, it appeared that the bendix gear in the new one wasn't retracted on the shaft quite as much as it was in the old one, by about half an inch. I reasoned that this might have been the problem with the new starter--the nose gear was still making contact, however slightly, with the flywheel, causing that metallic ringing. This kind of detective work is, of course, only necessary for someone like me who doesn't work with cars on a regular basis. Any mechanic probably would have listened for a second and a half and come to the same conclusion I had.
Wednesday I went back to the parts store and tried out my theory on the girl who had sold me the other one. She looked thoughtfully at the old starter and at the new starter, back and forth, as I explained that I didn't think the bendix gear had retracted enough on the new one, hence the funny sound emanating from the starter. I thought she was going to tell me that my idea was all wrong, and that all the new ones looked like that, or that the clearance was sufficient on the new one. (I say this because I'd already observed that this girl--which she was, barely out of high school--knew a thing or two about auto parts.) But instead she shook her head and said, sadly, that that was the only starter of its kind they had in stock. She explained that they don't carry many of those starters, because they're for an old model vehicle. I wondered how much starter motors have changed over the years, other than things like the positioning of the attaching bolts. After all, it's a relatively old bit of technology, the direct successor to the crank handle people used to have to employ to get cars started. But what do I know? Except that planned obsolescence has been an integral part of automotive technology at least since Henry Ford stopped making Model T's. Anyway, I had a starter ordered from another location, to be delivered the next day.
Back to the girl at the parts store, though. I remembered her from a week or so earlier when I'd come to retrieve a battery that was being charged. As she came up from the back room I couldn't see her hands and it didn't look like she was carrying anything. Then when she arrived at the counter, up swung her arm with the battery, at least three and a half feet, as if she had been carrying nothing heavier than a loaf of bread. When I pulled the battery off the counter to take it home and felt its weight, I was very impressed--with her youth and strength, and with my lack of both. I took a long look back at her. Smart, bordering on cute, a bit of an attitude, all of her own teeth, no visible tattoos, strong as hell, and with a great knowledge of cars. I was tempted to ask her if she liked college football and the New York Yankees, but if she'd said yes I might have ended up saying something really foolish. But I did tell her that she had a lot going for her, and not to settle for the first grease monkey who came along. She accepted the compliment for what it was--a little meaningless advice (which she no doubt would not heed) from a guy her grandpa's age. Driving away I convinced myself that she probably liked NASCAR and country music, had quit high school because she needed more time to hang out with her boyfriend, and that the tattoos were indeed under there somewhere. So what the hell.
Moving at my usual snail's pace I picked up the new new starter on Thursday, then found other things to do and didn’t get it installed until during halftime of the Michigan-UMass game this afternoon. (Glad U of M won, but was disappointed in the defense and in some of the play calling and coaching decisions by DickRod. When are people going to wake up and realize that the guy is a BAD COACH, who’s just damn lucky he has a hotshot quarterback this year? And why the hell don't they get a foreign soccer player to kick field goals for them, like everybody else?)
The starter went in without a hitch, doing its job with just the right kind of noise and no more, and now it’s on to bigger and better things—a refrigerator and a generator for the motor home. More later. Go Blue.