Chestnut Hill attorney Julie Chovanes tried to save money by doing her own car repairs — with predictable results.

Chestnut Hill attorney Julie Chovanes tried to save money by doing her own car repairs — with predictable results.

by Julie Chovanes

So yesterday I decided to fix the car because it wasn’t working right, even though I usually ignore funny sounds and the check-engine light when it goes on, but the car wouldn’t go faster than 5 miles per hour, and even I know that is a problem. And usually fixing a car means a call to the shop, but dammit, I am woman; hear me roar! And besides, I Googled the symptoms, and it seemed there was a real easy fix taking 22 minutes, according to a YouTube video I found. And we have to save money because we have kids — so, so, so many kids, but of course, all are loved and cherished and expensive.

The fix was all about the VANOS, which to me sounded like a new makeup line but turned out to be these things that stick into the engine and could be removed cleaned and replaced in 22 minutes. (Ed. Note: According to Wikipedia, VANOS “was introduced in the early 1990s as a way of altering timing based on RPM and engine load to improve torque delivery, fuel economy and engine smoothness.”) So I went looking for a wrench because I only had to remove one bolt for each VANOS thing — there are two — and I found the little ratchet socket, which sort of amazes me, but I couldn’t find the handle to save my life, so it’s off to Pep Boys to get a new handle and the cleaning stuff, which we of course didn’t have either.

And I come back and open the hood, and there the little VANOS things are, all dirty, and to even get to the bolt to remove them, I have to clean them. So I find an old toothbrush and lather it up and take it out and immediately drop it into the engine bay, and my big fat arm can’t reach down there. I get the areas clean finally, and I put the new wrench down and start turning the bolts by hand and get one out and then drop the bolt into the engine bay, too, but I still have the big fat arm problem. So I decide to wait for one of the kids to come home because she has a little skinny arm, but I try to pull the sensor out anyway, and one fingernail goes snap.

Finally I get both of the VANOS things out, clean them off really nice, and there is a separate little rubber seal thingy which should be cleaned, too, that sticks inside of the engine. So I pull those out and clean them, too, and am feeling good, and the kid comes home and pulls the toothbrush and bolt out. (Dammit, kid for all that money you cost us…), and I am feeling good really good. I am woman; hear me roar!

So I go to put the VANOS back in, but I have to put the rubber thingy in first and put in into the hole in the engine, and it immediately drops into the actual engine. I try to feel for it, but all I feel are the edges of cylinders and things, and I start crying because now I have a rubber thingy in the engine itself, and even I know enough that is bad, very bad, and it probably costs thousands of dollars to take the engine apart to get the little rubber thingy out.

So I call up the local shop, sort of sobbing, and the guy patiently hears my story and says, “Don’t worry about it.” “Don’t worry about what?” I ask, sniffle, sniffle. “Don’t worry about it. The engine will just rip it up and spit it out, and it will be fine.”

I ask if he’s sure. “Yep,” he says, being a guy who works on cars and so he is kind of monosyllabic. I thank him profusely, but it’s getting dark and I decide to at least really carefully try to put the other one in anyway, so I do that just fine.

Yay! So I am psyched and go to the parts store first thing today and get a new rubber thingy. “Do you want two?” the guy asks, and I say “No” because I am sure the other one is okay and clean. I start putting that one in the car, and it won’t fit because the other one is in the way, so I have to take the other one out to put the new one in, and finally I get the new one in and am happy.

I then reach for the other one, the good one, the one I had to take out to get the one with the new rubber thingy in, and I notice that it doesn’t have the rubber thingy on it. So I look in the hole, and it’s still in the hole but crooked, so I reach down, don’t really watch what I’m doing, hit something and break another fingernail and knock that little rubber thingy into the engine, too.

And my lovely spouse just told me that the garbage disposal has something in it and asks nicely if I can fix that, too.

I am woman; hear me cry!