Saturn’s Sputters

or Why I’m Not An Auto Mechanic

The saturn has been having a bit of trouble idling recently after it warms up. It kind of putters now with an occasional sputter thrown in. Thinking I know what I’m doing under the hood I open it up and look. Yep, it’s a motor. Must be something wrong with it. Thinking hard and long about this for the next couple of days I decide it must need new spark plugs. I’d pulled them to inspect them a month or two ago when the problem was just beginning to crop up and they were getting old and warn. So I go to the handy napa and buy the wrong ones–how was I to know I didn’t have dohc? But since spark plugs are kind of hard to mess up I put them in anyway.

No, I didn’t break it with the wrong plugs, sorry. Instead nothing changed. No thank you from the engine for the new plugs, no reduction in sputtering, nothing. So like any smart man will do I thought about it some more. I pondered why it would do this to me, the phase of the moon and finally consulted the sage of wisdom–the internet–where no lies exist. There were rumors of a idle control valve thingy located somewhere on the throttle body that might be the culprit, hidden in a little black box. I went out and found it, removed it (who puts torque head screws on a car besides saturn?) and cleaned it. I caressed it, I cuddled with it, I pushed and pulled on its little actuator and waited for it to purr. Thinking I was all smart and manly for all of this I put it back in. Nothing. No reduction in putter and sputtering, no thank you, not even a hiccup.

Not to be daunted by this mystery I did the next best thing. I got out a can of engine degreaser and the pressure washer and washed off the oil on the block. Ah, now this I know how to do. It shined and gleamed in the rain, you could almost hear it squeal with delight. I was covered in a sparkly goodness it hadn’t exhibited since it left the factory. There was a nagging fear though in the back of my mind that, while I knew how to use a pressure washer, some little do-hicky in the engine might not know how to handle it. So with great hesitation I started it up. Vroom, putter, sputter. But wait, the “check engine” light was still on and not going off. Humm.

But we all know that stupid light is for sissies, not real men who know the difference between the engine and the trunk on their cars. So doing the best thing I knew how to, I went skiing with Emily. On the drive that damn light kept shinning right at me, glaring at me, laughing at me and most of all just not going off. I finally couldn’t take it any more and pulled into a rest stop. A man has to do what a man has to do after all. I popped the hood and looked. Yep, that’s an engine all right, a rather hot one, hope the problem isn’t near the exhaust… Yep, that’s a wire, that’s another wire, and that’s a wire that umm, isn’t plugged in. Oh yea, I had disconnected the throttle sensor wire to get to the beloved idle control valve thingy. Maybe that would cause it to turn that damn check engine light on. With a surge of testosterone I reconnected it, burned my finger on the exhaust for good measure and hopped back in the car.

Minute after agonizing minute the light remained on. My attention was riveted to the incestuous light that just wouldn’t go off. The road hardly mattered, the cars flew by and the passenger kept trying to say something. Maybe it was 10 minutes, maybe 20 but finally I listened to Emily who kept saying, “oh look, the little light went out, wonder if the bulb burned out?” Humph, so much for my vigilancy.

But even with it knowing where the throttle is, it keeps puttering and sputtering. I figure it just brings us closer together since that’s all I manage these days anyway.

One Response to “Saturn’s Sputters”

  1. on 13 Sep 2009 at 6:55 pmAunt JB

    Is this the same car that Don backed into? If so, it deserves to sputter! Sputtering is good; it indicates a clinginess to lfe. Leave it alone!
    If you need more advise, please send chocolate!

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