Wait, so that’s what a dipstick looks like? Who knew?

January 19, 2010

Here in New Zealand, a vehicle must pass a Warrant of Fitness (WOF) inspection and display the resultant sticker on the windshield before it’s considered road-legal. I’m not sure how it works for everyone, but our 1999 Honda requires a WOF renewal every six months.

This is something like the AirCare deal in my native British Columbia — a cash grab cleverly disguised as something that it beneficial. Governments may lack a lot of things (starting with anything resembling logic) but they do tend to hire the best spin doctors in the market. Why else would West Coast Canadians merrily line up to pay money to have the brand new exhaust on their brand new vehicle tested? This while all the diesel-fume-spewing trucks rumble right on past, horn being honked, nose being thumbed.

The idea behind WOF is slightly different. For all I know — sitting in the waiting room, flicking through a months’-old woman’s magazine, shaking my head at the celeb dirt — our Honda’s exhaust fumes might very well be undergoing some sort of test. Mostly though, WOF is sold as being all about safety. Do the lights work? The turn signals? The E brake? The brakes? The seatbelts?

Funnily enough, I’m pretty sure the inspector is not checking the volume limit of the bass on my car stereo. Nor is he overly concerned with how much noise my muffler emits. Thus ensuring — should the mood strike me some  0-dark-thirty — that I can join the other boy-racer hoons in screaming up and down the country lane that passes for a road in front of our house.

Due to work commitments on my part, Viking Woman took Smurfie (because all beloved cars have names) to the nearest Vehicle Testing New Zealand location for its latest WOF exam. She came home to announce she is returnig to the VTNZ Wednesday evening to attend an information seminar designed for ladies. The subject matter is car maintenance and will include such crucial topics as checking the oil, changing a flat tire, installing windshield wipers and replacing bulbs in headlights.

Personally, I think it’s a great idea for Viking Woman to know these things. Because someone in our household should.

You see, I’ve never been much of a motorhead. I want to get from A to B safely and in a timely matter. I don’t need to know the engineering behind that feat. Cars have never interested me. For one, they have way too many parts. And, two, it tends to get very dirty and greasy once you unlatch the hood. This is all I need to know about cars: I turn the key. If the engine starts: good. If the engine doesn’t start: bad. Call AA.

I have a brother who does his own oil changes. I have a friend who washes and waxes his car every weekend. Frankly, I’ve got better things to do.

I know, this is not your typical male attitude. And it’s also coming from a fellow whose first real job was in a garage. Part of my duties, besides pumping gas, at Brookswood Hell Shell, was to do some minor work on vehicles — oil and lubes, that sort of thing.

One day, the boss (and chief mechanic) pointed to what I believe might have been the differential (but what I liked to call the Big Thingee) and asked which of the two bolts, top or bottom, should be removed to check the fluid level.

This was one of those 50-50-90 situations. There was a 50 per cent chance the answer was the top bolt, and the same percentage chance it was the bottom one. And a 90 per cent chance that whatever answer I gave, it would be wrong.

I forget which bolt I chose but, soon after, my job duties were narrowed down to pumping gas and sweeping the parking lot.

So, yeah, you want your gas tank filled, I’m your man. You want anything to do with that noisy, hot, oily thingee in the front of your car, wait until after this week and then ask Viking Woman. She’s already told me where to shove the dipstick.

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