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Who Is Your Spark Plug?



Nothing, a huge nothing, enhances the miracle of personal transportation like a van carrying three generations of the same family on the freeway at night.

With a check engine light flashing.

And a loss of power in a sputtering engine.

And you’re driving.

Think of it as a way to understand the aging process, the job market, and where you fit into the picture.

Where do you want to be? Anywhere but the side of the road at night with a dead car.

Do you pull over and call for help, or drive on?

The engine light flashed, stayed solid, then flashed in a sequence.

It was an obvious code that translates to:

“I’m giving you a chance, moron. Do you want to burn up your engine? Do you? Well, do you?”

The notion of the van dying and staying dead was strong so I left the freeway and limped home.

At every stop light I shifted to neutral and revved the engine to keep it alive.

An important part of this technique is waiting for the revs to drop before shifting back to drive. Ignore the revs and you’ll have an engine problem and a transmission problem.

What’s a boomer to do?

First, check with everyone you know.

The same goes for a career change.

In the sharing economy we’re supposed to live in you want every friend, relative, and stranger to give their opinion of your car problem.

Or any other problem.

After they weigh in you won’t know anymore than you started with. It might be spark plugs, coils, sensors, or fuel filter.

In your professional life it’s your skill set, education, and experience.

Armed with good research you start searching youtube videos for a DIY solution.

Pay close attention to the clips with a southern man voice over. They say funny things and their cars always end up fixed. They might take the engine apart, but they get it back together.

These are the same voices you want explaining life choices after sixty. That southern melody has a calming effect.

One trip through a video on replacing a fuel filter did the trick. I looked at my engine and knew I was in over my head.

But that’s only for the fuel filter. Spark plugs? Anyone can change a spark plug, right?

The problem car was a Toyota with a transverse mounted V6.

The spark plug wires loop in front and back. The coils are sleeves inside the engine top with the spark plugs in the bottom of a hole. Six holes. Three in front, three in back.

More complicated than a ’64 short block Chevy.

You have to take stuff off to get at the plugs, then use an extension for a plug socket to reach down there.

Why do garages charge so much to change plugs? That’s why.

I looked at the engine again and called my mechanic, ready to bite the bullet.

Before going to the garage I chugged into an Auto Zone store. They plugged their diagnostic computer into my car. The readout said it could be a fuel filter, coil, spark plug, wires, or sensors.

It all sounded like money, lots of money.

You could say the same thing about going back to school for a masters degree, a certificate, or maybe an extra diploma to show you’re not wasting time. It’s all money, lots of money.

My mechanic is a factory trained guy working for a big company. He still finds a way to help. That’s what the side door is for.

He got me in, did another computer diagnosis, and replaced a coil in about five minutes.

Instead of a bucking, choking, mess on it’s last legs, the engine purred like a kitten with a makeshift roar.

The same good luck applies to your professional life. You need a mentor, a tutor, someone to open the side door and let you in.

I found one here.

If you’re like so many self-made types who never ask for help, remember you never really do anything alone.

You’ve had help from the beginning. For proof, lift your shirt and notice your belly button. Then thank your mother.

“Thanks, Ma.”


About David Gillaspie
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