"I left it up on the lift, cause I wanted to show you a few things. There's some good news, and some bad news," Ferris the mechanic said as he led me across the garage bay. Ferris looked every inch the master mechanic he was. Blackened fingernails that were never clean, check. Strategically stained overalls, check. Oddly missing front tooth, possibly from a bar fight or a 'misunderstanding,' he had it all.
There was one other car in addition to mine. It was a Jaguar. Seeing my lusting glance, Ferris shook his head. "Stay away from the Jags. They just wind up breaking your heart. This is the third time I've seen that one this year. Serpentine belt."
I didn't know what was more flattering, that Ferris thought I was wealthy enough to purchase a Jag, or that he thought I knew what a serpentine belt was. Either way, I decided to leave his illusions intact and nodded sagely.
We stepped under my Saturn VUE. Feris took a Mag light out of one of his pocket and pointed it up into the twisted guts of the engine. "You see that there?"
"The metal rod?"
"Just beyond it, the housing. See how it's damp?"
I squinted, but it all looked dark to me. Ferris shook the light a little and some of the metal glistened. "Yea, I see. What is it?"
"That's a very good question. We know what it's not. It's not oil, antifreeze, washer fluid, water, transmission fluid, or steering fluid."
"Ummm, are there actually any other fluids used in a car?" I asked.
"A normal car? No," Ferris replied in an annoyed tone, as if he suspected me of deliberately adding some sort of mystery fluid to the engine just to torment him. "But that's not what I wanted to show you."
"It wasn't?" I raised an eyebrow.
"No, what I wanted to show you was the engine. If you look close, you'll see that the pistons are aligned parallel to the bumpers. Basically, the engine is sideways. They did that to save space so they could compress everything into a smaller engine compartment. At least, that's what I think the intent was. I can't really be sure. I've never seen this design in any other car."
Ferris shook his head.
"How long have you been doing this?"
"Thirty years next June."
Ferris continued," I'm telling you this because you asked me to fix your heater. I need to replace the heating element. Most of the time that's a 30 minute job. Most of the time." He fell into silence and just stared up at the engine.
"And with my car, it'll take, what, two hours?" I asked. I was used to the VUE's quirks and knew everything took twice as long as other cars.
Ferris cleared his throat, "Well, it's probably a two hour job, once we pull the engine out, which will take a day and another day to put the engine back in."
"You have to take the engine out to fix the heating element?" I asked, not quite sure I had understood Ferris correctly.
"It's a helluva thing." Ferris replied, still marveling at the engine.
"Wow, when are you going to get to the good news?" I asked Ferris.
"What do you mean? That was the good news," Ferris said. "If you want the bad news, well, shall we take a look at what passes for breaks on this thing?"
I sighed. "Lead away."
"On normal cars, rotors are made of metal..."
THE END copyright 2013 John Lance