Everybody has routines. Quigley inhales coffee to keep his nerves intact; Basil eats jelly donuts to keep his waistline intact; even Tooner grumbles 12 hours a day to keep his reputation intact. But today somebody was messing with our lunchtime routines, and that somebody was none other than Beanie.
Tooner’s eyes popped open wide. “Hey, what’s with the five-gallon pail?”
Beanie hoisted the white plastic bucket onto the table with a grunt. “This,” he panted, “is my lunch.”
We crowded around for a peek. On top were an apple and a slightly overripe banana. Lying underneath were two corned beef and pickle sandwiches, each in a clear plastic container. “What happened to the sandwich bags you always use?” Tooner inquired.
Beanie puffed out his chest. “Gone! Cast aside. Purged from my life along with all the other environmentally abusive garbage I used to bring every day. It’s time for some new routines!”
Basil pointed to the glass quart jar of canned peaches. “Are you really going to eat all those in one sitting?”
Our apprentice blushed. “No. But the jar is reusable, unlike the single serving tin cans I used to buy.”
“Okay, I get it,” I said. “By using refillable bulk containers, you’re reducing waste. But what’s with the six inches of nuts and raisins in the bottom of the pail?”
“That’s trail mix.” Beanie scooped out a handful and began to munch. “I was throwing away too many granola bar wrappers. Today I’m a new man; today is the beginning of Green Lunch Day.”
“Green Lunch Day?” Tooner rubbed his chin. “I’ll tell you what, if my lunch turns green, I ain’t eatin’ it.” He guzzled down the rest of his Coke and tossed the aluminum can into the trash. “A few extra food wrappers ain’t gonna kill us, Beanie. I got more important things to worry about.”
I took note of the frustration in his voice. “You mean like that 2002 Nissan Altima that’s been plugging up your bay for the past two days?”
The Nissan had come in for a new clutch. The job went smoothly until yesterday, when Tooner started the car to go on a test drive. That’s when the Check Engine light illuminated itself and wouldn’t go away. Diagnostic code PO335 was the culprit, indicating troubles with the crankshaft position sensor.
Tooner did some research. “This crazy car has two crankshaft sensors, one on either side of the block. How am I s’pposed to know which one’s the culprit?”
Basil came over for a look. “Yes, there are two sensors, but they have different jobs. One sensor reads the flywheel ring gear teeth for the crankshaft position, and the other reads a reluctor wheel on the crank to help detect a misfire.” As Basil pointed out at the time, Code PO335 was indicating an engine misfire. But that didn’t make sense; the car ran as smooth as Oriental silk.
“Well, I don’t think it’s the crank sensor,” growled Tooner. “I’ve checked it with my Fluke meter and the wave form pattern is nice and square-like.” He frowned. “I’m wondering if mebbe I didn’t get that flywheel on in the right position.”
There was only one way to find out, so Tooner and Beanie pulled the transmission out for the second time. Tooner inspected the flywheel bolts with a trouble light. “Naw, this ain’t it,” he muttered. “The arrow on the flywheel is lined up with the dowel pin, just like I thought it was.”
“Does that matter?” asked Beanie.
“You betcha. Get that wrong and everything goes all wacky.” He tossed the light onto the workbench. “I shoulda known better than to doubt myself.”
The boys reinstalled the transmission and Tooner began checking for bad grounds and other wiring problems. But nothing would get rid of the trouble code.
That was yesterday, and today Tooner was nearing the end of his patience. While he had absolutely no appreciation for Beanie’s Save The Earth campaign, it didn’t stop him from reaching a grubby hand into the pail and scooping up some trail mix.
Basil spoke up. “Tooner, what was that wave form like again?”
He shrugged. “As perfect a square wave pattern as you’ll ever get.”
“Yes, but what were the voltages?”
Tooner munched thoughtfully. “Lemme see…I think the top of the square wave was up around 11 volts, now that you mention it.”
A slow smile crept onto Basil’s face. “From my recollection, the average waveform voltage should be around 2.5V at idle with a peak to about 7.5V.” He raised an eyebrow. “I think your voltage reading of 11 volts is too high.”
Tooner grunted and picked a stuck raisin out of his teeth with a toothpick. “And I think I’m gonna call my buddy Terry over at the Nissan dealership.”
We all went off to our jobs and left Tooner paging through the phone book. When I came into the lunchroom 15 minutes later to retrieve my screwdriver, I found him on his knees digging through the garbage can. “What in blazes are you doing?”
“Shush,” he whispered. “I don’t want Beanie to see me.” A minute later he straightened up triumphantly. In his hand was the Coke can he’d thrown out earlier. “Turns out I got a use for this piece of garbage after all.” After glancing around to make sure we were alone, he went on. “My buddy at Nissan says that when these Altimas first came out, the guys at the dealerships had all kinds of troubles with comebacks on these here misfire sensors. Apparently they ain’t spaced properly from the flywheel, so Nissan had them cutting up shims out of pop cans to space them out a bit. Talk about a non-routine fix!”
I laughed. “So I guess you’re going to be a big fan of recycling now. Does that mean Beanie gets some credit for his garbage reduction ideas?”
Tooner blinked in surprise. “Give credit to The Bean? Are you nuts?” He got up and dusted himself off. “Beanie can change his routines if he wants to, but I ain’t.” He headed for the shop, grumbling as he went. “Sheesh, what are ya tryin’ to do ruin my reputation?”
Rick Cogbill, a freelance writer and former shop owner in Summerland, B.C., has written The Car Side for a variety of trade magazines for the past 14 years. “A Fine Day for a Drive,” his first book based on the characters from this column, is now available for order at thecarside.com. A collection of his past The Car Side columns is also available at that website.