On my way to work the other day, I noticed a new BMW in the breakdown lane. The hood was up and a smartly dressed guy was peering intently inside the engine compartment, trying to figure out why his very expensive car was not working. Cars and trucks were whizzing by him. It was cold and drizzling. I thought to myself, “What the hell is he looking at?” I highly doubt that this guy, or most guys, can barely figure out how to program the Navigation system, let alone diagnose an engine problem on todays’ cars.
I’ve been a “car guy” ever since I could remember. I would pore over car magazines and memorize horsepower, 0-60 times and the all important, quarter mile speed. When I was sixteen, my brother went off to school and gave me his old junker. It was a 1960 Chevrolet Impala with a straight six-cylinder engine and two speed automatic transmission. Pretty much state of the art back then. I was able to change the oil and sparkplugs, flush and fill the radiator, install a new alternator, tune the carburetor and generally keep it in running condition.
Not any more. Cars are way too complicated and sophisticated these days. Computers control the engine, transmission, brakes and even the suspension. I’m sure that I could figure out that if smoke was pouring from the engine bay my car was on fire. Or, if fluids were pooling underneath it, I most certainly had a leak somewhere. And if it wasn’t where I parked it, someone had stolen it. Just for laughs I popped the hood on my 2011 Ford Mustang. There was the engine, a few hoses, a lot of wires and many little high tech fittings. It took me a few minutes to locate the dipstick for the oil. The oil filter was positioned in such a way that in order to remove it, my arm had to be a foot longer and have two more joints in it.
As a guy, I would much rather slit my wrists than ask for directions. So guys are forced, no, make that compelled; to open the hood and pretend we know anything about what is going on under the hood. Hopefully, the well-dressed man at the side of the road was dialing AAA as he gazed longingly into the engine bay.