Good mechanics are a rare breed. Plenty of guys can turn wrenches. Even I can find the two mounting bolts on a starter, drop it, and put in a new one. But that doesn’t make me a mechanic. It makes me a trainable monkey.
Goober once disassembled an entire car and reassembled it inside Andy’s office at the courthouse. Goober wore a funny hat and worked for Wally. His diagnostic skills included making engine noises.
“Does she go like this? Ka-chunk, Ka-chunk? Or, is it Vroom-pa, Vroom-pa?”
I’m not knocking the noise imitations. I have used them. My wife uses them to tell me about something her car is doing. I listen. Squinch up one side of my face.
“Sounds like the fuel pump is going bad,” I say.
Mechanics who really know what makes an engine tick can hear things not recognizable to the average human ear. There was this guy in Sunny Side that worked on cars. He walked with a cane. He would open the hood and put the end of a 4 ft. metal rod against the engine while it was running. He cupped his hand around the other end and leaned into it with his ear. He probed and listened like it was a stethoscope.
“Your number 2 and 6 aren’t firing right. Probably a couple of burned valves.”
What drives the car owner nuts is the dreaded intermittent issue. Let’s say your transmission does something funny in the parking lot at the Piggly Wiggly. You pull the shifter down into reverse and nothing happens. You try three times. Still nothing. You turn her off and crank her back up. And suddenly she acts like nothing was ever wrong.
Six weeks go by and she does it again. But this time you’re at the pumps and irritable people are wondering why you’re not getting out of their way. Then, mysteriously, she starts working and you’re off. You stop by to see the mechanic. He’s a young guy with a computer.
“She’s not throwing a code of any kind. No way to tell what’s going on.”
“But it’s done it twice now. I know there’s a problem.”
“Well, she seems fine to me. If it does it again, bring her back.”
And you drive away wondering when the transmission gods are going to frown on your miserable life. If it “does it again”, really? You may be stranded at a traffic light. Pieces of metal scattered on the asphalt beneath your truck. You wish you could go back to the guy in Sunny Side with his stethoscope. This has never happened to me.
The beauty of Pine Mountain is that it’s still a lot like Mayberry. I half expect to run into Goober one day. I see at least 4 Aunt Beas every day I go to the Post Office. I’m pretty sure I saw Otis coming out the back door of a well-known but unnamed establishment late last week.
When my kids were young drivers, Cook Brothers was the go-to-garage. Three generations of Cooks looking under hoods, rotating tires and keeping folks on the road. Tire problems, oil changes, new batteries, replacing water pumps. Steve and Adam took care of my kids. No deposits. No signed tickets. No worries. The car could get serviced on a Saturday and they knew I would come by one day the next week to settle up with them. They are good people.
When my oldest daughter went off to college, I had two concerns on my mind. Can I pay for this? And, can I find a mechanic in this town I can trust with my daughter’s car? We settled up on an installment at the front office. Moved her bags into a room the size of a pantry. I left her and her Mom alone to get “set up” and I went to find a garage. I wound up at the Jeep-Chrysler garage in town, and Tony and I were on a first name basis for the next 4 years.
The stories I hear about mechanics are either very good are very bad. This guy can fix anything. Or, this guy will rip you off and steal you blind. And though I suppose there are rotten people everywhere and in every walk of life, the good mechanics I’ve known far surpass the bad ones.
Most of them are honest and decent folks. They are willing to do just about anything to take care of your car and get you going again. They live with sore hands and grease packed under their fingernails. And if it’s broke, there’s a good chance they can fix it. If I was a drinking man, this is where I would raise my glass and say, “Here’s to all the mechanics. Thanks.”
But, while you’re here, I have this noise. Ka-Kuh-Ka-Chink. It only happens when I slow down going downhill around a curve on wet days right after a rain. What do you think that might be?