Thursday, March 8, 2012

Powder Puff Mechanics

Driving older cars always presented a steep learning curve when it came to keeping them running.  Breaking down on the highway was always scary.  Trying to get help was always nerve racking.

I decided I should be more proactive and learn some basic maintenance skills.  One of the Adult Ed courses offered in Helena was “Powder Puff Mechanics Course.”  I signed up and the Fury and  I went to class regularly.  At class we looked at the different parts of the engine.  We  learned some of the basics.

Then came the finale - changing the oil.  I went through all the steps under the careful eye of the instructor.  When it came to tightening the oil filter I couldn’t quite get it.  He used a loop (my term) and tightened it up.  I went home feeling proud of my accomplishment.

The next morning after driving almost a block I noticed I was leaving a trail of oil.  Today such a trail would have been accompanied by an EPA investigation.  I being a smart and observant person concluded the oil trail equalled a problem with the car.  Aren’t you amazed at my deductive reasoning?

I stopped at the first service station with a repair bay.  I pulled in and told the mechanic on duty that I had recently had my oil changed.  But this morning I had noticed a major leak.  He put the car up on the hydraulic lift while I waited below.  Soon he came over to me.  His visage telegraphed pure rage.

“Lady I don’t know what fool you took your car to, but they didn’t tighten the oil filter when they changed the oil.”

“Did I damage anything?”

“No you caught it in time.  Promise me you won’t ever let that fool touch your car again.”

Nodding compliantly I agreed quickly, “I won’t let that fool ever change the oil again.”

“I hope not!  He should never be allowed near a car.”

I decided to keep what shreds of dignity I still possessed and and didn’t divulge the identity of the fool.

True to my word I never again changed my own oil.


  1. Oh, I am SO enjoying your car tales. I can just see your face become serious as you answered the mechanic. My beet red face would have given it all away. I'm so glad that you were able to catch the problem before it became a BIG problem.

  2. I can't tell you how many times I've thought about taking a similar class. I admire that you did! No damage done (except maybe to the ego), lesson learned, and a great story that made others smile so I'm glad you touched that car. 

  3. Your car stories would make  GREAT collection of short stories!  I LOVE them

  4. Oh what a fun piece this was. I have been teaching my kids about a "twist" in stories. This is a lovely example...the expected and the unexpected. Your humor comes through loud and clear.
    I have never changed the oil but I like to identify problems with "Click and Clack the Tappert Brothers" on NPR Saturday mornings. Do you?

  5. I was hoping to start the day with a car story, and you obliged with this fabulous one...hooray! Love the name of the class...I'd sign up for it, although I would have had even less success than you did. Anyway - at least you were able to keep your composure and leave the mechanic's with your dignity intact!

  6. Great story.  I'm sure just knowing how it should be done is enough learning.  I can't imagine changing my own oil!  I'm impressed you took the class and attempted it!

  7. This was another good one!  I hope you had 31 cars. 

  8. StorykeeperferrisMarch 9, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    I do enjoy listening to them.  The Billings Gazette publishes their column.

  9. StorykeeperferrisMarch 9, 2012 at 11:35 AM


    I think of him every time my vehicles are do to have the oil changed.

  10. StorykeeperferrisMarch 9, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    I really think they are good classes.  At that time I was younger, skinnier and didn't have as much trouble getting up and down.  It is good to have an understanding of what goes into basic maintenance. It makes it easier to tell if someone is feeding you a line when you take your car in to have work done on it.

  11. StorykeeperferrisMarch 9, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    Between Dan and I we have had 48 - we may have missed one or two though.

  12. Loved this one. I could just see your face, probably a little blank not wanting to give away who changed the oil. Thanks for the laugh.

  13. Wow, it's been a long day.  Sorry to be so late.  From your story, I thought the 'fool' was the teacher who helped you tighten it after you couldn't get it.  It seems to me that you thought he had finished the task.  But right or wrong I think it's great you did that.  My daughter has figured out quite a bit about cars because she likes putting things together, etc.  She's had a few comments through the years because of it-silly isn't it?  thanks Ruth, like Donna, I hope you have lots more stories!

  14. Storykeeper FerrisMarch 9, 2012 at 10:33 PM

    I do. I have picked at least one story from each of the cars that I've owned or owned with Dan.  I may not get through all of them by the end of the month.I hope you have a refreshing weekend.


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