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Feature   August 19, 2014   by

The Car Side: False Alarms

Slim and the gang deal with false alarms in (and out of) the shop in this month's Car Side!




Slim, Tooner, Basil and the gang are at it again!

Here’s a preview of this month’s The Car Side column by Rick Cogbill.


By Rick Cogbill

Basil looked up from his morning crossword puzzle as Tooner tried to hang up his jacket. After three unsuccessful attempts, Tooner lost patience and kicked the jacket into a corner.

Basil adjusted his reading glasses. “Did we have a bad night?”

Tooner stumbled towards the coffee pot. “Yeah, we did.” He poured himself a mug of black death.

“Had three false alarms last night. I didn’t sleep a wink!”

At Slim’s Auto Repair, we encourage the staff to take an active part in the community. Basil sings high tenor in the community choir, and Beanie joined the local drama group. My family and I deliver meals-on-wheels to local shut-ins. Tooner, on the other hand, had recently signed up with the local fire and rescue.

Quigley folded up the morning paper. “Could somebody go and verify the calls before bringing in the whole cavalry?”

Tooner flopped into a chair. “By that time, the whole house could burn down. I’m just hopin’ it don’t happen too often.”

A young, smartly dressed woman arrived, driving a newer Subaru wagon. Quigley met her at the front counter to take her keys. “She looks familiar,” I said after she left. “Has she been in before?”

“Nope, first time.” Quigley tagged the keys. “But she’s Beanie’s older sister. There’s a strong family resemblance.”

I snapped my fingers. “You’re right! So, what’s the scoop?”

“Just a tire swap,” said Beanie, who’d come into the office to get the keys. “They’re already mounted and balanced on rims.” Beanie explained that when his sister finished law school, he’d convinced her to put her old Ford Taurus out to pasture and upgrade to something more reliable. On Beanie’s advice, she got the Subaru dealer to throw in a complete set of tires and rims. “Later this fall, we’ll fix her up with a new set of winters on the old rims.”

“Fine,” said Quigley impatiently. He hates it when we book things without telling him. “Get ‘er done so we can get on with the rest of our work.” 


Tooner spent the rest of the day grumbling about false alarms. But that night he got a full eight hours of sleep, so he was back to his usual self the next morning – which wasn’t a big improvement.

We forgot all about alarms, false or otherwise, until two days later, when Beanie got a call from Janey. “What’s up, Sis,” he asked when he got to the phone.

“I hate to bother you, but ever since I picked up my car, I’ve been having trouble with the alarm system. It goes off every time I get in.”

Beanie frowned. “You mean it goes off when you try to unlock the doors?”

“No, after that. It’s when I get in the driver’s seat!” What really infuriated Janey was that it never happened when her husband drove the car.

“Very strange,” said Beanie. “I’ll look into it.”

Quigley had been eavesdropping on the conversation. “Whatcha think, Bean?” he asked.

Beanie shrugged. “Could be something weird with the tire pressure monitoring system. But I can’t see it turning on the car alarm.”

A search on the forums and repair databases revealed nothing. At coffee, Tooner snickered gleefully. “Ain’t it fun chasing false alarms?”

The next day brought another phone call from Janey. “Today the alarm went off as I gave one of the associates a ride to lunch. It was humiliating!”

Beanie groaned. “Look, I’m doing everything I can. Something electronic must be sending a false signal.”

“Like what?”

“Like, did you get a new cell phone? Or is there something in your briefcase, like a garage door opener?”

“No!” she wailed. “Beanie!!”

He cringed. “Okay! Just bring the car back in. Maybe there’s something wrong with your key fob.”

She stopped wailing. “Actually, it’s not my key fob; it’s Henry’s.”

“Henry’s? Like, your husband Henry’s?”

“Yes,” she retorted. “I picked the car up after 9 o’clock, so I used his keys to get in. My keys are still up at your shop.”

Beanie covered the receiver with his hand. “Quigley, do we have Janey’s car keys?”

“Of course not!” Quigley was indignant. “I put them under the floor mat and locked the doors, just like she asked me to.”

Beanie returned to the phone. “Sis, would you do me a favor? Lift up the driver’s side floor mat and tell me what you find.”

Just as Beanie suspected, Janey was unknowingly stepping on the key fob when she got into the car, activating the panic button. Henry, who was much taller, would put his feet in a different place, so the alarm never went off when he got in.

“Wow, false alarms are a nightmare!” Beanie massaged his forehead.

Tooner nodded. “And you were messing with a lawyer to boot.”

Beanie’s eyes widened. “She could have sued me!”

“Relax,” I said. “She’s family. I suspect the worst she would have done was get a restraining order to keep you away from her car.”

Come to think of it, when it comes to family vehicles, that might not be such a bad thing. 

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