Auto Service World
Feature   December 1, 2002   by Rick Cogbill a.k.a. Slim Shambles

The Rest of the Story

"Where's Tooner?" asked Quigley, waving some work orders. "We're swamped today and he's late for work!"Quig's harried look was typical of most service writers and he drinks coffee by the gallon just t...

“Where’s Tooner?” asked Quigley, waving some work orders. “We’re swamped today and he’s late for work!”

Quig’s harried look was typical of most service writers and he drinks coffee by the gallon just to survive. But he also smoothes his hair back with it on the real busy days, so you can tell his anxiety level by how high his coiffure sticks up. Today was definitely not a De-Caf day.

“Easy, Quigley,” I cautioned. “I’m sure he’ll have a perfectly good explanation.”

At that moment Tooner’s battered old Chevy pickup arrived on the back of Dutchy’s tow truck. Tooner bolted from the cab and sprinted through the back door of the shop, where I found him at his toolbox, gasping for air as he struggled into his coveralls.

“Running a little late, are we?”

“Sorry, Boss,” he wheezed, “ran out…gas…three kilometres…wife… dogs…tree…”

I held up my hand. “Easy now. Are you saying you’re an hour late because you ran out of gas? You only live across town!”

He shook his head violently as Quigley walked up. “Let him catch his breath,” he said. “This I gotta hear.”

We finally got his explanation. “I ran out of gas because my wife used the truck on the weekend.”

“That’s it?” I asked. “Didn’t you check the fuel gauge?”

“It’s broken,” he admitted. “I fill up on Tuesdays and that usually does me the week. But the wife went to visit her mother, and it threw off my calculations.”

“So let’s hear the rest of the story,” prompted Quigley. “You walked to the nearest gas station…”

“Well, actually I ran. Mrs. Barker’s dog got loose and chased me part way.”

“So after you got some gas, what happened?”

Tooner looked sheepish. “Well, my fuel pump is weak, so I had to crank it a lot. ‘Course, that wore the battery down, being it’s 10 years old. My parking brake sticks, so I couldn’t push-start it. Rep Tyler came by in his truck to give me a push, but then my rear bumper fell off and wrecked his front tire…”

“So all this happened because you let your vehicle get run down?”

“NO!” Tooner glared at us. “It all happened because my wife borrowed the truck!” He stomped off to start his first job.

That first job was Chinz Muldoon’s 1987 Olds Cutlass with a 3.8 litre V-6 engine. It arrived by tow truck over the weekend. Chinz was there, too, because he says he likes to watch, but in reality he’s just cheap and wants to make sure we don’t overspend his money.

“What’s the story?” asked Tooner, opening the hood.

Chinz waved his coffee cup in the air. “I was driving along, nice as you please, when right out of the blue the car just stalled. It’ll start and idle, but quits if I step on the gas.”

Tooner rubbed his chin. “Any other symptoms? How’s it been running lately?”

“Great! This old baby purrs like a kitten.”

Tooner got in and started the car. It would idle, but as soon as he stepped on the gas pedal, it would pop and die. “Your “Check Engine” light is on. I’d better check for trouble codes.” Chinz frowned. “Is that going to cost extra?”

Tooner ignored him and hooked up the scan tool. “Hmm, ‘Code 34, MAF Sensor voltage low’. I’m not surprised; these early Mass Air Flow Sensors were notorious for problems.” But when Tooner checked further, he found it wasn’t the MAF Sensor itself, but a broken wire between the sensor and the computer.

An hour later he had located and fixed the trouble spot, with Chinz timing his every move. “Gee, Toon,” he said, looking at his stop watch, “I think you could’ve saved me ten minutes if you’d organize your tool box a little.”

Tooner growled under his breath as he started the car. The warning light was gone and the engine would now accelerate, but very poorly. Tooner was not happy as he spent another half-hour rechecking his repair, retesting the MAF Sensor, and basically scratching his head.

“Chinz, are you sure this car ran okay before you had it towed in?”

“Well…” Chinz shuffled his feet. “I guess it might have been a little slow on acceleration for the past, uh, year or so…”

“What!” hollered Tooner. “So you just drove it ’til it finally quit and had to be towed in? Go sit in the office while I figure this out!”

Chinz scurried off and left Tooner to start checking the basics of the ignition and fuel systems. In the end he found an open ignition wire, worn out spark plugs, and one fuel injector connector that had come unclipped from the #2 injector.

“There.” He tossed the keys on the counter. “It runs like a scared rabbit. Next time, don’t wait until the little problems become big ones.”

After Chinz paid his bill and left, I found Tooner nursing a coffee in the lunchroom. “I guess Chinz learned his lesson. He booked his wife’s car for a tune-up.”

Tooner snorted. “Some guys won’t learn until you kick ’em where it hurts-in the pocketbook!”

Quigley cleared his throat. “Glad to hear it, Tooner. Here’s the towing bill for your truck.” Tooner grabbed the invoice and let out a yelp.

I chuckled. The shop will be busy tonight while somebody does a few repairs, starting with his fuel gauge.

(Thanks to Mike Duguay of Duguay’s Auto Repair in Surrey, BC, for this month’s technical problem. If you’ve got a good story to tell, e-mail Rick at )

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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