Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Melinama pays the Stupidity Tax - Twice

Here are two simultaneous sorry tales concerning my careless relationship with engines and gasoline.

1. After a long winter I went out and gave the old, old weedwhacker a gingerly inspection. If you've been reading Pratie Place since last summer you know I whack my whole place with this weedwhacker: "Mowing a plane with a point" is my daughter Melina's contemptuous description of the process.

I went to the gas station, filled my one-gallon gas tank, added the magic gas additive which for years has solved starting difficulties, and then groaned when I looked at the 2-cycle engine oil dispenser.

It's one of these. You squeeze the bottle till the loft area fills to the correct line for your particular 2-cycle gizmo.

And here was the problem: somehow, over the winter, the loft area had become completely full of oil. Way past my gizmo's line.

These bottles are made for one-way use. The oil goes up, it doesn't come down. I tried and tried to convince the excess, unwanted oil to trickle on back down to the ground floor. No luck.

I could have drained some out, but that seemed wasteful. So I thought-bubbled: "I'll just eyeball it, how far off could I be?" So that's what I did.

I started weedwhacking. My sessions are usually a couple hours long, but this one lasted only a few short minutes before the engine started smoking and slowing down and then - silence.

So, too rich an oil mixture? Leading to a carbonized spark plug? It was too much for me. This is the procedure I did not want to face:
  1. Getting rid of almost a gallon of corrupted gasoline.
  2. Draining the fuel tank of the weedwhacker;
  3. Finding my spark plug wrench or my socket set;
  4. Getting the spark plug out and cleaning it or replacing it;
  5. Getting new gas and starting all over again.
Luckily, an extremely rainy week followed during which I did not deal with this. The grass and weeds, however, kept growing, vigorously.

2. As things on my 1994 Plymouth Voyager break down (or break off) I decide on a case-by-case basis whether they're worth replacing. The gas gauge gave out about a year (or two) (or three) ago and I've been using the odometer ever since to decide when it's time to fill the tank.

I knew I was getting low as I pulled into my carport the other night, but the next morning, when the car wouldn't start, I wondered: "Could it have been my luck to use up the last 1/4 teaspoon of gas just as I pulled into the carport?" The odometer reading was not in the dreadful range, so I was perplexed.

Now step one of the previous problem had to be solved, as the only gas tank I have is the one-gallon tank I use for the weedwhacker!

I took the kids' car (in the pouring rain) down to the gas station, disposed of the corrupted gas, and brought back a gallon of fresh stuff and put it in my van. Tried starting it. No luck.

I called my handy friend (and fellow Pratie Head) Bob and asked him what to do. He said: "You probably have moisture in your line. Dump half a bottle of rubbing alcohol in the tank and then jump up and down on the car to mix it all up and try again."

Zed and I shook that car vigorously, but this did not solve my problem. So I had the car towed to my favorite mechanic, who is far away in Mebane (or maybe it's Efland). He called later and said, "Miss Melinama, you gotta put gas in your car." It had started for him.

He proposed (and I share this information with you in case it might come in handy some day):
  • My carport is on a slant and, on this slant, the pitiful one-gallon of gas I had put in the tank slanted clean away from the business end; and/or:

  • The tow-truck did a better job of agitating the alcohol into the gas than Zed and I could; and, further:

  • When I drive with the airconditioner on, OR with the windows open, this reduces my gas mileage and hence the number of miles (by the odometer) that I can ride without disaster.
Tow: $30; handy advice from my mechanic: $30. Total stupidity tax on item #2: $60

3. I confidently (now that I had an empty gas-can) refilled the can, put in new 2-cycle oil, drained the weedwhacker gas tank, refilled it, found the socket wrench, replaced the spark plug. The weedwhacker roared to life and I was happy. Two minutes later - bogged down again and dead. Did I kill it with my stupidity, or was it due to die anyway? Total stupidity tax: unknown.

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At 3:53 PM, Blogger miatagirl said...

That is SO funny! But at least you didn't drive downtown on a deflating tire just to put the spare on!

Next time, call me. We have a 3-gallon gas can with un-oiled gasoline in it.

Did you get the weed-wacker to work, or are you going to get a new one?

At 5:10 PM, Blogger melinama said...

First weedwhacker purchased this afternoon (a Toro): dead already, it's tangled up in its own pull chain in an inaccessible place. Piece of junk! It goes back in the morning! Maybe by then my stars will have moved into different houses and the weedwhacking project will no longer be opposed!

At 10:22 PM, Blogger melina said...

Oh my god!


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