Sunday, October 10

Well, That's Just Grand


I SO hate car problems. I'm not a "car guy" in the sense that I love getting deep into the guts of a car. When there are problems that I cannot handle - read "have the tools for" - I take the thing to someone who does that sort of thing for a living.

I can change a tire - the tools come with the car.

I can change a battery - hell, I work on [expletive deleted]'s and have the tools for that.

But Saturday the conditions were such that it was necessary to call in an expert - well, the expert's assistant: Chris.

The story starts a few weeks ago - Marilee and I were off to do some serious yard-sale-ing, and were off on the east side of the valley. It was a bee-yoo-tee-ful day, windows open, enjoying each others' company. In this one neighborhood, there were several hills and valleys - and dips. And, as we are wont to do, we started making fun of DIP-everything. DIP-thong... DIP-wad... DIP...


This next DIP was going to be a doozy. Unfortunately, I saw how far the drop-off was at the last nanosecond, slammed on the brakes - alas, too late.

Now, while the Rodeo IS a four-wheel drive vehicle, it's geared more for the weekend warrior type off-road excursions, not for one- or two-foot drop-offs in a residential area. In other words, the ground isn't soft. It's blacktop, after all.

I don'[t know how high we bounced. It took several exasperated moments for us to collect ourselves, and we were on our - clank - way again.

We were only about a block - clank - away from our destination, so got ready to - clank - turn the next corner.

"Did you hear that?" said Marilee.


"That clanking sound."


"Oh, THAT clanking sound."

Suffice to say that once Chris and I started looking at the brakes - yeah, you saw that coming - we realized I didn't have the necessary tools to do the job. Enter the expert who came over later yesterday afternoon.

And for the time being, we were down to one serviceable vehicle - my work truck, which left us with a bit of a problem - three un-serviceable vehicles in the driveway. That would be Jenn's old Dodge Avenger, the Rodeo, and Marilee's Grand Am. Ah, yes, the Grand Am.

You may recall this repair job from August 2008:

It's still attached, so I must have done something right, car-wise - for a change. But to have so many un-serviceable cars made me cringe. No just so much that there were dollar signs dancing in my eyes, but what, exactly, was I going to do about the Grand Am THIS time?

The problem? Dead battery. Yes, the battery had been replaced some time ago. And the electrical system checked, at least from the charging/alternator perspective. But anything else? Was it time for a professional?

Screw it, and I turned to Google.

The dead battery was just the end result. The primary symptom? The parking lights were on all-the-time. Even when the ignition switch turned off, and the lights turned off... well, that's not entirely true.

In Pontiac's - and General Motors by association - infinite wisdom, there's no friggin' off switch. There's a three-way headlights-parking lights-AUTO switch. Auto meaning the car's "computer" decides when the lights should be on.

It's wasn't turning the parking lights off AT ALL.

So... a Google search for "grand am" "parking lights" resulted in several good possibilities, including re-programming the computer. Dollar signs. Not an option.

This WAS an electrical problem, was it not? Should be a simple solutio...

Another promising suggestion was to swap the horn relay with the parking light relay. At least you'd know from the nasty looks from your neighbors in the middle of the night with a horn that wouldn't turn off.

What turned out to be the problem was dirty relay contacts at the fuse block. Now, I've been in the electronics business for over thirty years, and wondered just who the rocket-scientist engineer was that decided this circuit should be wired the way it is. In an idle state - ignition switch off, and the switch in "auto" - with basically an open circuit, suggests that the relay is wired as normally closed; energizing the relay makes them turn off.

Who. The. Hell. Does. That?

I bet the engineers who design these circuits probably don't have to fix them.

Now, where have I heard that before?

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Google Analytics Alternative