The Reliant has quite literally been a little shaky as of late, having developed a habit of rough idling when I am waiting at red lights or stop signs.  Eventually, the "Check Engine" light came on, which got me just a little nervous.  Luckily, my Google-fu was good enough for me to save a trip to the dealer by getting the error code from the car’s computer.  This also has me wondering what I could do to it with my Netbook and a USB cable.  In any event, a few clicks of the key, and I then had the Answer To My Car Problems:

"P 303 – 3rd cylinder misfire"

Well, that was about as pointless as farting in a windstorm.  Actually, it did give me something else I could Google, and Google away I did.  Instead of relying on a single solution, I looked for commonalities between the different fixes I found.  This was made slightly more difficult in that there are actually two major revisions of the Dodge Neon, so I had to disregard anything in relation to the first-generation model.

I figured I would go from least-expensive to most-expensive fixes, hoping to not have to resort to going to the dealer.  I started out by replacing the air filter and PCV valve.  I almost took the opportunity to upgrade to a K&M filter, but the auto parts store I visited did not have them in stock.  I reset the car’s computer to make the "Check Engine" light go away and hoped for the best.  The Reliant felt like it was running better, but soon enough the rattling returned, not quite as serious as before, but there nonetheless.  I figured the next thing to try was to replace the spark plugs, wires and ignition coil, though the coil was going to cost a few bucks.  I went to do some more research (all the while the rattling was becoming worse, and the "Check Engine" light reared its ugly head again) and as I did not see the coil mentioned very often, I figured I’d install new plugs and wires, and see if that would be enough.

Luckily, I had a day off to perform the operation, and so I voyaged to Auto Zone to get parts.  I acquired a set of wires and some slightly-nicer plugs and drove home to begin…and discovered I would need a extender for my ratchet.

Of course, it couldn’t ever be just that easy, so I had to make a quick trip to Wal-Mart.

Soon thereafter, I was busy swapping cables and plugs, and all was well…until I went to attach the third wire to the ignition coil.  I pushed it in, expecting to hear the ‘click’ of the connection being made, but, nothing.  I looked inside the cable expecting to see the silver connector inside, but instead there was…nothing!  Well, fark.  I used the old cables, and took a trip back to Autozone to get a replacement set.  To make sure all was well, I connected the new cables in the parking lot. 

Curiously enough, there were a few signs saying "Do Not Maintain or Repair Vehicles In Parking Lot" in front of the Autozone, but after seeing three vehicles in the parking lot with hoods popped and their owners hunched over their innards, so I figured one more wouldn’t hurt.

The operation was soon over, and so far it appears to have been a success.  I keep waiting to feel That Shaking Feeling again, but it hasn’t happened yet.  If it does, come back, then I suppose I will break down and buy the ignition coil, but so far, so good!


Here In My Car…I Feel Nothing At All

I am not a "car guy," and for the life of me, I just don’t get the "car thing." I could not tell you the difference between year X and year Y of a particular vehicle, and I cannot recognize vehicles on sight.  If you are ever in an accident, you better hope I’m not one of the witnesses, because the conversation with the police would go something like this:

OFFICER: "Can you describe the vechicle, sir?"
RANDOMIZER9: "Yeah, it was, uh…silver! I think it had four wheels, too!"

I have friends that are "car guys" and I can hang with them for awhile, but once they get beyond a certain point, I quit hearing their words and the only thing I hear is the "Wah wah waah" of Charlie Brown’s teacher as they blather on about fuel-air mixes and trans-a-missions and all that.

I currently own a 2005 Dodge Neon. It is a conveyance, a box on wheels that gets me from Point A to Point B, and when I’m on vacation, to Point C. I keep it maintained, and I might even treat it to a wash every so often, but that’s it. "Car guys" on the other hand, have an attachment to their vehicles that borders on creepy. On Randomizer9’s Freak-O-Meter, they sit a few notches above pet owners who dress up their pets or name them "Baby," but I digress.

I’m not entirely in the clear on this one, though, because I did give my car a name: the "Reliant." I also did go "oooh!" when that yellow Lamborghini passed me up on I-10 awhile back, and I like Corvettes. I also considered an intake kit for the Reliant recently, and if AutoZone would have had one in stock, there might be a K&N air filter in the Reliant right now instead of a Fram. All things considered, I could be on the brink of becoming a car geek.

I think that my lack of car-guy-ness is due to the fact that I’ve never owned a vehicle that I ever really wanted. I have always gone with the practical choice out of economic necessity. The vehicle of my dreams is about a year’s worth of payments away, though, and that fact that I have already decided on a name for it ("Excelsior") might be a precursor of things to come.

Once people start tuning me out, I think the line will have been crossed!