Mechanically Speaking: Your humble servant awaits your next request

An explanation of why what seems like a simple question or problem does not always have a simple answer.

The auto mechanic’s trade is a very humbling profession.  How can a mechanic be cocky when challenged by many seemingly simple tasks?  Our customers expect simple answers to their automotive questions.  Simple solutions to their seemingly simple problems.  Sometimes what seems obvious ….. well, let me explain.

You bought some wipers for your own vehicle.  Simple item. Easy install.  Not! You could not get the old wipers off never mind putting the new ones on.  So what next?  Off to your mechanic with a humble request.  “Can you put these wipers on for me?”  Your mechanic looks at you sheepishly. “Ahhh ……. sure.”

Wipers are my nemesis.  Unless the wipers are purchased from the original equipment manufacturer they may not even fit the application.  Wiper removal is not in the owner’s manual nor is it in the professional repair manual.  I guess it is just too simple.  Then, why does it present such a challenge?

Some old designs employed tiny mounting screws.  Left long enough and these screws are rusted solid.  Removal may be a real challenge.  Many of you who have struggled with rusted Phillips screws know what I mean.  Heat and vise grips are your friends.

Thank goodness the screw type have all but disappeared.  Most newer designs employ some type of plastic snap together mounting system.  Being plastic means ultimately the old wiper can be broken off when all more elegant methods of release have failed.

Once removed installation is the next challenge.  This is when your humble servant mechanic will excel.  Forget instructions.  Snap, snap, all done.  Not always.  Sneak a peek at the instructions.  Study the instructions.  Is there a YouTube video?

In this age of self service gas stations opening hoods can be a lost art.  A lot of automobile owners have never opened their own hood.  Is it possible that your mechanic is challenged by the simple act of opening your hood?  The interior hood release is usually an easy find. Remember to check in the glove box.  Not so easy sometimes is the safety catch.  Last resort to find the catch usually involves an inspection lamp and some serious investigation.

Think you could open any hood in the business no problem?  Let me know the first time you attempt to service a Porsche Boxster.  Make sure it has an owner’s manual.

Resetting maintenance service indicators is a relatively new challenge for your mechanic.  Many vehicles have the procedure in the owner’s manual.  Others just send you to your dealer who has the special tool.  Remember your independent mechanic has those tools as well.

As an apprentice in a European car specialist shop I was introduced to maintenance service light resets early in my career.

The craziest had to be Volvo 240s.  These vehicles required removal of the instrument cluster (the unit that has your gas gauge, speedometer, tachometer etc. in it) and then you had to push a button in the back of it.  This tool oriented procedure has now been usurped by the new age video screen with buttons and knobs. Key on, door closed, click, scroll, click, click, press and hold, ten seconds release. Didn’t work. Ahh, the emergency brake has to be on.

How come the use of these never seems intuitive to me?

I wish the Apple user interface was part of every vehicle.

Then I might have  a chance.

Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. He will write every other Thursday. E-mail:

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