Auto Service World
Feature   October 1, 2003   by Rick Cogbill a.k.a. Slim Shambles

A Repair for the Masses

"Yessiree, just one of these little pills a day and you'll be the picture of health!" Beanie held up a bottle of lime green capsules. "After a month, you'll be running the mile in four seconds and ben...

“Yessiree, just one of these little pills a day and you’ll be the picture of health!” Beanie held up a bottle of lime green capsules. “After a month, you’ll be running the mile in four seconds and bench-pressing 180 pounds.”

Tooner eyed Basil over the top of his playing cards. “Got any nines?” he asked. Beanie’s sales pitch was falling on deaf ears.

“Go Fish,” said Basil, calmly chewing a toothpick. He raised an eyebrow in our apprentice’s direction. “Beanie, you don’t seriously believe this gobbledygook you’re telling us, do you?”

“But it’s true!” Beanie exclaimed. “The salesman showed me 30 pages of testimonials from his other clients.” He grabbed another bottle from the box. “Here, just two of these orange pills a day will make your hair grow back!” He looked over at me. “How ’bout it, Boss? Within two months you’ll be a new man.”

“Very funny, Beanie,” I growled. “Within two months we’ll be broke if we buy all the supplements you’re trying to push.” Every since a door-to-door pill salesman snookered The Bean out of his rent payment, he’d been trying to get his money back by peddling snake oil to anyone who would listen. “Put that stuff away while you still have friends,” I advised him. “You keep bugging us and I’ll send you home without pay.”

That sobered him up, and for the remainder of the day we had relative peace and quiet. Later Basil came into the front office in search of some hot coffee. “Ah, youth,” he said, referring to Beanie’s naivete. “When will they ever learn?”

I agreed. “The odd person might feel better by taking those concentrated vitamins, but there’s no way one little pill can fix all those problems for all those people.”

“Speaking of problems, what are we going to do about Hans Whipple’s ’94 Crown Victoria?” The car in question had been puzzling us for a couple of days, with complaints of pinging and the Check Engine light coming on. The trouble codes indicated that it was running lean, but the computer had reached its adaptive limit via the oxygen sensors. “We’ve changed the fuel filter,” Basil continued, “but that didn’t help. We could throw in some new 02 sensors, but somehow I don’t think that’s the problem.”

“Why don’t you check out the Mass Air Flow Sensor?” I suggested. “Maybe something’s blocking the air flow and not allowing it to give an accurate reading.”

We went out to the car and took apart the air cleaner assembly. “Nothing here,” remarked Basil, as he checked out the ducting and screen. “I’m going to take a peak at the sensor itself.” He unscrewed the hot wire assembly and pulled it right out of the meter body. “Very interesting,” he murmured. “The wire itself is shiny clean on the engine side, but tarnished black on the air cleaner side. I’m going to try cleaning it.” Using some brake parts cleaner and a soft toothbrush, Basil polished up the thin wire until it was clean on both sides. Then we reassembled everything, cleared all the codes and gave the owner back his car.

“Drive it around for a day or two,” I told Hans, “and let us know what you think.”

Hans was back the next morning, grinning from ear to ear. “Slim, this car has never had so much pep in all the time I’ve owned it! What did you put in the gas tank, Viagra?”

After he had left, I went out to where Basil and Tooner were working on a ’94 Ford Ranger. It, too, was pinging, in spite of being de-carboned during a recent head gasket repair. “Basil,” I said, “Hans says your little cleaning trick did wonders for his Ford. Why don’t you try the same thing on this Ranger?”

He shrugged. “Can’t hurt. C’mon Tooner, I’ll show you what I did…”

An hour later the two techs came back from a test drive. “Well, now I’ve seen everything,” Tooner chortled. “A little dental care on a skinny wire and the truck runs like new. Let’s go try that on my wife’s Mercury Mystique; it’s been pinging for the past six months!”

Later in the coffee room, the boys were ecstatic. They gave a detailed rundown to Beanie and I on how all three Ford products ran so much better after cleaning the Mass Air Flow Sensor wire.

“I can’t believe that one tiny little fix like that can make such a difference in so many vehicles!” said Basil. “That’s about as close to being a magical cure-all as I’ve ever seen.”

Beanie perked up his ears. “Hey, that sounds just like my pills! Did I ever show you guys the blue ones? They’re called the Colossal Colon Cleansers, and with just one pill a day you’ll be…”


About The Writer

Rick Cogbill is a freelance writer living in the Okanagan valley of Southern British Columbia. A licensed technician with over 25 years in the automotive repair industry, including ten years as a shop owner, Cogbill creates his comic scenarios with Slim, Basil, Tooner, and The Bean out of actual case histories. “What you have just read is true,” drawls Slim Shambles. “Only the names have been changed to protect my hide!”

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