Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Tiny Matter

The "check engine" light recently came on in my car.

My "check engine" light and I have a long history, none of it good. At least three times in the last few years, the light has come on, and I've raced to a mechanic. Each time, I've been told there was nothing wrong with the car; the problem was with the light itself. Of course, I regarded this most recent instance as another "Cry Wolf" situation. The car was running fine, so I ignored it.

I took the car in for its annual inspection this week. Of course, it failed. The inspector told me the problem was with my emissions system, and that was probably why the warning light had come on. He told me to take it to a repair shop and, after the repairs, he would retest it for free.

I took the car--a Ford Explorer--to an outlet of a national repair chain. They told me it would be $750 to repair my catalytic converter and, by the way, I needed a new muffler, too.

The car is running great, and this assessment just didn't feel *right* to me. I paid for the computer checkup and left.

There's a small repair shop off the main street in my town. I've noticed it often, but have never gone there. The thing that caught my attention is that the shop is pristine--clean, painted, well landscaped. On impulse, I stopped in. The shop is run by two brothers, Luis and Efraim.

I told them I'd been told I needed a muffler. Efraim shook his head. "I don't think so." He said something in Spanish that I couldn't follow to his brother. He got his device to check the car's computer, ran the diagnostics and grinned at me.

He opened the hood and pointed to a hose at the back of my engine. "There's your problem," he said. He checked, but didn't have a hose the right side in inventory. "Can you wait a few minutes?" he asked before running down the block to get the new hose. It was a tiny thing, about eight inches long and less than a half inch in diameter.

Luis installed the hose, and the "check engine" light went out. Luis told me to drive the car on the highway for at least fifty miles before I take it back for inspection again.

I thanked him profusely (he could have charged me for a muffler after all) and asked what I owed. He refused to take any money from me, saying "Come back the next time you need work done on the car."

I certainly will, and I'll bake them something tomorrow, too.

Nice people are a blessing never to be taken for granted.

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