For no less than two years now, the light on my trusty Saturn's little odometer has refused to provide any light. I can still see how many miles I've gone, but only in the daylight. I would like to think this means that any nighttime driving hours are not logged, which might bide me a bit more time before I have to accept the fact that my car has lived a good life but it's time to retire it and say hello to a car payment once again. Unfortunately, that is not how it works. The odometer just keeps scrolling along, whether it's bright enough for me to see the numbers or not.
I've grown rather used to the dim and subtle odometer display, so I was more than a bit alarmed when I turned my ignition key the other day and all six numbers lit up in bright orange. You'd think I would be happy when this happened. You'd think that someone with as overactive an imagination as mine would proclaim the miracle of my car's self-healing powers and deem my Saturn invincible from here on out. My imagination rarely works in such a positive and optimistic way, however, so instead I started wondering what on earth was wrong with my car that suddenly made that long-gone light re-light. Had a squirrel crawled up under my car and somehow reconnected the wire assigned to that light, but then decided to chew through my brake line while he was rooting around in the region as well? Had the connections rusted and corroded in such a way as to fix whatever short caused the light failure, but it was only a matter of time before the delicate balance tripped some other malfunction in its place?
Obviously, not only am I insane, but I am highly knowledgeable about the inner workings of modern vehicles, too. I think it's pretty clear I've missed my calling as a mechanic, isn't it?
What's more alarming is that two days later, I was convinced that I was right. I could see no other explanation for why the "Service Engine Soon" light suddenly displayed on my dashboard panel. Damn squirrels. Damn rust. Damn Saturn service center goblins.
Service center goblins? Oh. Right. Perhaps I should explain.
The Saturn repair shop where I take my car employs several full-sized, adult humans who speak in complete sentences and walk upright. I get to talk to them only when something is genuinely wrong with my car, however--when I request diagnostics of some sort and pull in to the special Service Center door on the right. For routine maintenance such as oil changes, I drive up to the "Quick Lube" entrance, which is staffed entirely by goblins.
I could be wrong, of course. They might not be real goblins. They might be Satan's tiny minions. Every time I see them, I'm reminded of the Stygian Triplets--the evil little skate punks who did Jason Lee's dirty work in Kevin Smith's Dogma. The don't roll around on wheels, but they're all diminutive and a little squinty-eyed, and I don't think a single one of them is a day over 19.
Until recently, I felt a little judgmental assuming the lube techs might be itty-bitty servants of Beelzebub. They seemed perfectly friendly, after all (if a bit dim-witted at times). Why shouldn't I trust them with my car? But then I turned down the fuel-booster and road-side assistance add-on that they wanted to sell me, and eleven hours later, I was driving on my wheel rim after a mysterious tire failure. Coincidence or sabotage? You be the judge.
So where was I? Oh. Right. The "Service Engine Soon" light. As it turns out, I may not have the service center goblins to blame for that one after all. Ignoring the words of a boy who claimed, "Don't bother hauling out your owner's manual; all it's going to say is 'See your dealer,'" I read the corresponding page in my manual and found that there are at least two very easy-to-troubleshoot reasons why that light might decide to light up. The first one, "Did you drive through a puddle? Your electrical system might be wet." did not apply, but the second one, "Did you recently refuel?" actually did. The manual instructed me to verify that my gas cap was intact and see if the light goes away afterwards. I unscrewed and re-tightened the cap, drove another ten miles or so, and suddenly, the insistent "Service Engine" message disappeared. Voila! I am a born mechanic after all! And my Saturn maybe actually is a tad invincible. I'm suddenly dubbing it Kitt. It's wired for self-preservation, it seems.
Or so I'm telling myself at the moment, anyway. Tomorrow the transmission may spontaneously fall out, and then all bets are off.