Saturday, July 31, 2004

Lady Detective

When the boyfriend returned from his gig last night, he said that the brake lights on our car wouldn't shut off. He'd had to disconnect the battery. I was sleepy when he told me this news, but this morning I mentioned it and he said he'd looked it up online last night and found some info on the brake light indicator. (Why he has to search online when we own a huge '94 Honda Accord manual that cost nearly $100 is beyond me, but whatever.)

I got curious about it myself this morning, so I did my own Google search and found a discussion board where someone with an '84 Accord mentioned a rubber/plastic nipple that had broken and "which explained the little pieces of plastic on the floormat." The light bulb went on over my head as I suddenly remembered that as I was driving away from my office at lunchtime yesterday to pick up the boyfriend at the golf course, I felt something fall onto my (bare, flip flop-clad) left foot. Since I was climbing a steep, narrow, very windy hill at the time, I tried not to veer off the road while looking frantically down toward my foot to make sure it wasn't some horrific tropical bug. (Those of you who will remember the "spider inside the jeans" incident will understand that that's not an unfounded anxiety.) I didn't see or feel anything. But after I picked him up and we reached home, I recalled that I'd seen a couple of little black things on the floormat as I exited the car. I remembered thinking, "What are those? Bugs? Plastic? Rocks?"

Fast forward to reading that Honda message board. I went out to the car and found three pieces of broken rubber/plastic lying on the floormat, including the "nipple." We opened our big fat Honda manual and sure enough, there was the diagram of that rubber nipple making contact with the brake pedal.

So now the boyfriend is on the balcony "making like MacGyver" (his words), whittling down a golf tee to jerry-rig it until the service department at the Honda dealership opens on Monday.

As for me, I'm sitting here quite pleased with myself that for once I got to solve an automotive mystery. :)
UPDATE: After posting the above, I walked out to the car to see how the boyfriend was coming with the whittled-down golf tee. He had a smile on his face and said, "I know what will work even better. Remember when that piece on the clutch broke and he (the bass player who's also a mechanic and fixed it during a house call) charged us $69 for a part?" Then he walked to the trunk, popped it open and proceeded to loosen one of the plastic thingies holding the carpet to the inside wall. It was a plastic screw with a flat, circular disk attached to it. He held it up and said, "Here's the $69 part." While under the dashboard trying to devise a solution to the brake pedal problem, he'd turned to look at the repair done to the clutch. It turns out that our clutch had been repaired a few months ago with a piece pulled from an interior wall of someone's car. Ha! Rather than being upset over being charged $69 for a ten-cent piece of plastic, boyfriend got excited that he now had a workable solution. What followed was 15 minutes or so with the two of us, in various configurations, trying to get that damn piece in the hole. Boyfriend's not a small person; I'm half his size. So it seemed obvious that I should be the one to lie on the driver's side floor and reach up to insert it. While I was doing that, he was lying across the passenger seat depressing the brake pedal with his right hand while his legs were dangling outside the passenger door. But I couldn't get the darn thing inserted--it was too wide or long (or something). So he whittled down the flat circular head, but still no go. Then we switched places; he thought he might be able to just muscle it in. I was pressing the brake pedal with my right hand as strongly as I could, but the boyfriend's left-handed. So he was 'muscling it in' with his left arm which was pressing hard against my right arm which was trying to depress the brake pedal with all its might--all while the emergency brake was digging into my left shoulder, the stick shift was up against my right side and my head was under the steering wheel. I finally convinced him that the screw part was too long, so he clipped some of its length with needle-nose pliars. Then it dawned on him that maybe we could find a way for me to squeeze my leg in there so I could depress the brake pedal while getting some leverage. That did the trick--he finally got it in. We tested the brake lights, and...success!

We split immediately for the beach to have a quick breakfast before his golf date and drove down the lovely lush road leading to the beach feeling quite pleased with ourselves over a job well done. We not only managed to repair it, but had found a solution that negated the need to buy a replacement part (at least for the time being). Who knows? It just might hold for as long as we need it to (the next seven months).

And kids? Do try this at home. :)


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