Chasing Down Smoke - Tire Review Magazine

Chasing Down Smoke

Look at this,” announced Tooner. He tossed a copy of the Slumberland Rebuttal onto the front counter, stabbing at a glitzy quarter page ad with his grease-stained finger. “Yer lookin’ at my ticket outta here.”

11-05Chasing SmokeI picked up the local rag and read the advertisement out loud. “You too can make $4,000 a week! Become one of tomorrow’s millionaires and kiss your old job goodbye. For only $25 you can … ”

There was more – a lot more – but I’d read enough. “Tooner, wake up. This is nothing but smoke and mirrors. I’m surprised that you of all people would buy into this junk.”

He poured himself a coffee and reached for a sugar cube. The box was empty. “Ain’t junk, Slim. I called the guy myself and got the lowdown. Only a limited number o’ folks in each city can buy in, and there’s one spot left in Slumberland.”

He upended the box and poured the last of the loose granules into his cup. “Besides, it’s only 25 bucks.”

Lately, Tooner had been hinting that he was getting too old to be pulling wrenches. He wanted a change and I sympathized, but to be honest, fixing cars was what Tooner did best. “All I’m saying, Toon, is watch out. And read the fine print before you send away any money.”

Tooner blinked a couple of times. “There’s fine print?”

Obviously my advice had come too late.

“Here, forget this nonsense and take a look at that 2005 Jeep Cherokee. The Johnsons are complaining about the MIL being on. From the stack of old invoices they brought in, it looks like every shop in town has had a crack at it.”

Tooner looked over the repair history. “Huh, code P1494 – Leak Detection Pump Switch or Mechanical Fault.” He rolled the papers up and stuffed them into his back pocket.

“I hate these emission control problems. Whatever happened to the good old days when all you had to do was plug off the EGR valve to make a car run decent again?” He took the keys and headed for the door. “Can ya blame me for wantin’ out?”

I talked over Tooner’s discontentment issues with Basil. “It’s the ‘grass is greener’ syndrome, but I honestly don’t think Tooner would be happier grazing anywhere else. Fixing cars is what he does.”

Basil took a bite of his triple cho­co­late dip donut – he calls it his ‘thinking food.’ “I’ll have a talk with him later,” he said.

Newspaper ads weren’t the only smoke show in Tooner’s day; the shop was full of fallout from the smoke machine he was using on the Jeep. “Finding anything?” I gasped, squinting through the haze.

Tooner pulled off a gas mask and turned off the machine. “Nothin’! I’ve smoked every darn component of this mangy system and I can’t find no leak!”
Convinced he was looking for a leak in the EVAP system, Tooner had gone over every inch of the vehicle and come up empty. His next move was to remove the fuel tank and smoke it personally. I wasn’t an expert on these systems, so there was nothing I could do except leave him to his misery. Sooner or later, he’d figure it out.

The next morning, Tooner was exceptionally quiet when he arrived for work.

“So, did you hear back from your financial guru?”

“Sort of. A package arrived at the post office, but I had to pay duty fees since it come from outta the country. Inside was part of a training course … ” His voice trailed off.

I coughed politely. “Part of…?”

He grimaced. “Yeah, well, it seems that after reading Part One I’m supposed to send them $50 more to get Part Two.”

Basil and I looked at each other. “So tell me,” said Basil, putting a hand on Tooner’s shoulder and using his best Dr. Phil’s voice. “How’s that working for you?”

Tooner glowered. “It ain’t. It’s like that stinking Jeep in the shop; I feel like I’m chasing smoke!”

Basil sighed. “I meant to talk to you about that, as well. I think you’d better go back to the trouble codes and read the fine print.”

Tooner glanced up at him. “Whaddya mean?”

“If you recall, the definition for P1494 is ‘Leak Detection Pump Switch or Mechanical Fault’; it’s not a leak problem at all.” Basil started drawing some diagrams on his clipboard. “When the Leak Detection Pump, or LDP, is operating, the PCM expects to see the switch toggle as the diaphragm moves up and down. If the switch doesn’t move properly, it sets the code, meaning you have a wiring issue, a bad switch, or perhaps a vacuum line off or plugged.” Basil look­ed up. “Most likely, you need a new LDP.”

Tooner pulled out the repair history from his back pocket. “But it says here that they already put a new LDP on this thing!”

Basil shrugged. “Won’t be the first new part that didn’t work right, now will it?”

After a few more tests in the right direction, Tooner wound up replacing the LDP, which solved the Jeep’s EVAP problem. Even though the LDP had been a new one, it was not performing up to expectations.

“Kind of like that hokey idea about becoming a new millionaire,” Tooner admitted later during a coffee break.

“So you didn’t send away the next $50 dollars?”

Tooner snorted. “Whaddya take me for, a fool?”

The room went quiet; some things don’t require a comment. Suddenly Tooner got all excited as he noticed another classified ad in the newspaper.
“Hey, it says here that for only $500 I can take a mail-order course and become a brain surgeon in two years!” He stared at us. “I hear those guys make tons of money and play golf all the time. I’m gonna have to check this out!”

At that moment I decided to make a little smoke myself … by burning my newspaper subscription. There are some things that Tooner should never be allowed to read.

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