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The Dipstick

When I got married, I stop using the Automotive Maintenance section of my brain.

It wasn’t a huge sliver of my mental capacity before I got married, but I had been known to check tire pressure, replace windshield wipers, fill the various fluid tanks, and squint at dipsticks.

I said “I do” and didn’t bother with those things again. SEXIST!

A few days ago, I was steering our Suburban over hill and dale to the store when the orange message box popped up, bright and intrusive. I took a deep breath before I read it, hoping it was going to say something nice, like, “Isn’t it a lovely spring day?” or “Remember the sour cream!”

Nah. It said, “Check Engine Oil Level”. Sometimes, it would come on but flash back off immediately. This time, it stayed on as if it were glaring at me.

That not good. I call husband. He deal with it when he get home.

Me, thinking he’ll pick up some oil on the way home from work that night: Hi! Hey, the check engine oil level light is on and it isn’t turning off.

He: Then you should check the oil level.


He: You don’t want to drive very far if the light is on. Get some oil, wait until the engine is cool, put it in.

Me: Uh. What kind of oil? How much?

He: 10W-30 is fine. Get a couple.

Me: Uh. Okay.

At the store, I found the little section devoted to tree-shaped air fresheners, whimsical keychains, and motor oil. I decided to get just one because it seemed expensive and would most likely be cheaper at Costco or a car parts place. The one bottle would tide us over.

The little ones fell asleep shortly after lunch. It appeared to be a good time to play mechanic. I parked in the driveway to give myself plenty of room to work and gathered my supplies: Oil and a paper towel.

I popped the hood using the release latch under the dashboard. Yay! I thought.

I skipped around to the front of the car and tried to lift the hood. I’ve never lifted a hood of a Suburban, have you? Never mind the minutes I wasted finding the latch, that puppy was heavy. I got the hood up and held it for about thirty seconds as I searched for the stick that holds it up. I didn’t realize it had a handy spring-system to keep it up. The last time I raised the hood of a car, the car happened to be a 1987 Honda Accord. Stick Hood-Holder included.

Hood up, I looked for the dipstick so I could ascertain if the engine light was being a wiseguy and lying to me. I suspected it was.

The oil level dipstick in a Suburban is about 17 feet long. I wiped it with my paper towel and wished I had a cool mechanic jumpsuit. I replaced the dipstick, pulled it back out to get an accurate level. It couldn’t have been lower.

I replaced the dipstick and found the cap labelled Oil and Consult Owner’s Manual.

Consult Owner’s Manual? That is silly, I thought as I tried to twist the cap off. It rotated and stopped. I tried the other direction. It rotated and stopped. Back and forth, I twisted the cap and it wouldn’t come off. The owner’s manual, wherever it is, had a hearty laugh. I looked in the glove box for it, embarrassed, and it wasn’t there. Into the house…

I dialed my own personal Mr. Goodwrench at work.

Me: Hi! I am putting oil in the car and I can’t get the cap off.

He: You have to line the notches up and pull up as you twist.

Me: Oh.

I went back outside. He was right. I got the cap off. One step closer to being hired for an Indy pit crew!

I opened the bottle of oil and went to pour, but something seemed wrong. I pictured splashing and remembered funnels are usually used for those sorts of things. Back inside. Phone.

Me: Uh, do I need a funnel?

He: You can use a funnel.

Me: Where is a funnel?

He: In the garage, hanging on a hook. Yellow.

I hadn’t noticed, since I was in the driveway. I went to the garage and found the funnel, which was very dirty and had spider webs and fuzzy things on it. If I poured oil in it, the fuzzy stuff could contaminate the engine, right? Right?

So I washed the funnel. That’s what Indy pit crews do.

Finally, I returned to the Suburban, placed the funnel, tipped the oil bottle, and watched it glug glug glug into the place it goes, wherever that may be. I replaced the cap.

I closed the hood.

That only took three tries.

13 comments to The Dipstick

  • My handy-dandy car maintenance wisdom has its own dirt and spider webs and fuzzy things on it. My dad was a mechanic.

    Even Husband, whose father is a mechanic, probably couldn’t change our oil if he wanted to. We take it in. Sad, eh?

    Minnesotamom’s last blog post..Potpourri

  • LOL ~ That was great!!! 😀

  • For Christmas you should fully expect to get a blue Dickies jumpsuit just for occasions like this. One with an oval shaped name tag: “Gretchen”. Good work girl!

    Heth’s last blog post..A New Chapter Of Parenthood. Driving.

  • Congratulations on checking your oil! So, did you need more?

    Kristin’s last blog post..Back up

  • Glad you figured it out! I just bought a Tahoe in January; very similar to a Suburban. Just fits in the garage better and has less leg room, really. I could totally relate to you lifting the hood and searching for the stick thingy: I did the exact same thing the first time I had to open the hood! And my warning light just came on telling me to Change Engine Oil. So, I guess we need to get on that. I can’t imagine how dirty it must be if it’s TELLING me to change it!

    Laura’s last blog post..Random Blizzardy Thoughts

  • Good job! I always wonder, though, WHY is the oil low..aka..leakage. Just a thought Mrs. Goodwrench. :o) Maybe keep some oil, and a funnel, in the car…just in case.

    Dorci’s last blog post..The Long and Winding Road

  • That’s so funny. Congratulations!
    Love your take on the experience.
    I have to say, my wife had this happen twice but wasn’t nearly as adventurous – once, she stopped at a garage and had them charge her an inordinate amount for a quart of oil. Second time she just kept driving it home and left it sit until I got there to do it.
    But then my guess is she thinks “Indy pit crew” has something to do with a non-union group of folks removing the big ol’ seeds from peaches.

    Jon D (Graco)’s last blog post..The Happy Bus

  • This is brilliant! My husband married a competent car mechanical type gal! I did a semester on car maintenance instead of drum majorettes in high school… But the last time I changed a tyre I was nine months pregnant… the spare wheel is bolted under the car for storage (some man who has never been pregnant cleverly designed this special storage feature!!!). There I was rocking like a see-saw on the large tummy thing… in the gutter, trying to keep a number of children safely on the sidewalk at the same time… it came to pass, the air was curiously blue around our vehicle (rabid expletives kept flowing constantly) and I have never done anything mechanical since… Well I don’t call running out of gas once or twice a month mechanical – that is just part of the territory of trying to remember to fill up and everything else!

    se7en’s last blog post..Blog Awards… Thank You I Think!

  • It’s really a shame that your orange message box didn’t have something nice to say. Nag, nag, nag. Always so negative.

  • Teri

    We had an older car that “talked” to us…..”Fuel is low”, ” A door is ajar”….in the most pleasant mechanical voice. I would do out and start the car just to hear a pleasant voice on some days. lol
    Check engine lights are never fun. My Durango, another ten ton hooded monster, pulled that on me the other week. A computer sensor had malfunctioned but it still cost $$ dearly to get it fixed. . Silly creatures can’t read a stop sign.

  • You are like Wonder Woman!

    Cyndi’s last blog post..

  • I’m supposed to do WHAT now?
    My poor husband. He has to do evvverything with the car.

    Beck’s last blog post..mea culpa

  • That’s awesome! I love this post. 🙂

    The Casual Perfectionist’s last blog post..And that’s no joke!

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