Okay, well, what you have to understand first is that I am car-stoopid.
I don’t even know how to spell ahtow-mowbill –
What I know about cars can be summed up in the following passage:
See what I mean?
So, understanding that, here’s the story.
It was late on a Saturday night and I was patrolling, doing my thing, catching bad guys. Had some music going, probably a Dr Pepper or two. A standard night.
Then, out of nowhere, my car got smarter than me (yeah, yeah, supply your own joke). The dashboard panel gave an ominous message: “0% oil life remaining.”
I knew I was getting close to time for an oil change and when I saw that, I freaked out. Again, knowing exactly nothing about cars, what I saw was something closer to: “0% oil remaining…and if you don’t get some oil in that crankcase…NOW…your car will explode and that would probably be bad for your career.”
So I hot-footed it to the local Wal-Mart, parked in the lot, and immediately checked the dipstick.
Now, I hadn’t let the motor settle down at all because, again, I know squat-all about motors. So I checked the stick and couldn’t really tell how much was in, but hey, the computer had told me there was nothing left so get some oil in that puppy, right?
I dug out the book and it said 6 quarts. I snatched up 6 quarts, got it all put in, and felt much, much better. Oil in the motor, no chance of exploding the motor, and my career is still good.
Yeah…except…that pesky dashboard message remained.
“0% oil life remaining.”
Something about that pesky message ate at me but I couldn’t quite figure out why. I mean, I was good, right? I’d replaced the missing oil so there was nothing to worry about.
I cranked my crime cruiser up, banged the stereo and my music and headed down the road. Except…it was odd. The crime cruiser, I mean. Out of sorts. Off-kilter. It shook in a way it never had before. Not a ginormous shake, just a little tremor that the car had never had before. Knowing that I knew nothing and that the shake probably meant someting – maybe even something important – I headed back to the jail. I told one of the jailers, who knows a bit about cars, the story, and….
…I’ve never seen anyone laugh so hard.
“Wha’choo laughing at?” I said.
“Dude, think about that message. 0% oil life remaining.”
Son of a bitch. 0% oil life remaining…not 0% oil remaining.
He kept laughing. “Yeah, you added 6 quarts? Then I’m guessing you have about 12 quarts of oil in your little crime cruiser.” Another laugh. “Ain’t cruising much tonight.”
“Because the problem is….”
“Well, you could blow the motor up. Seals and gaskets. Too much pressure.”
I think of it like this: if my head were full of entirely too much brains, my eyeballs would be the seals and gaskets (sort of) that sealed it all up inside my skull. So all that massive brain power, and the sheer pressure it caused, would eventually sploosh my eyeballs right outta the sockets into some old lady’s lap on the bus or something and that, obviously, would be a problem.
The drawback to that scenario being…a lack of massive brain power.
Car stoopid or not, I felt like the world’s biggest fool. Really I did. In trying to keep the motor from blowing up because of no oil, I’d put myself in a situation where I could blow the motor up for having too much oil.
There’s an odd sort of Penzoil-lian karma in that, I think.
Except now I was a bit freaked because of course we didn’t have the tools to drain some oil and it was 10 at night, which meant no one was open. I called a few friends, none of whom were able to help because they either didn’t have the equipment or didn’t have it empty and available.
And then, for some unknown reason, I called Princeton FD. Got the one guy on the phone who’s a firefighter but who, in another life, had basically been a car mechanic. Tried to explain it to him and while you’d think that was an easy explanation, I completely lost him in the weeds of covering my own assininity. He didn’t have clue one what was going on except the motor was about to explode and we both agreed that would be bad.
So he told me to come to the fire house and it was absolute car motor nirvana. Turns out Princeton FD does many of their own small engine repairs. I’m guessing because they’ve got small engines galore, engines that run brush trucks and generators and jaw of life and chain saws and crap knows what else.
That small engine repair includes oil changes. So they had everything needed. This particular fireman cranked my crime cruiser up on some jacks, shoved an empty oil pan underneath, slipped the drain plug off and boom! was off and running.
Now, here’s a physics lesson for you. When you stuff 12 quarts into something designed to hold 6, and then want to drain it…you should probably stand clear.
It was like a freaking oil tanker exploded in San Francisco Bay or something. That crap came shooting out of the motor faster than BP’s oil spewed out of the hole in the bottom of the Gulf. The fireman had expected it to drain – down – from the oil pan. Uh…no. It shot out in damn near a straight line toward the back of the car.
The stream was probably five feet long and lemme tell ya, if you’re Peter North that’s impressive, but if you’re staring at $40,000 of county property that’s in your name, it’s a bit unnerving.
And, sadly for the fireman, I’m fairly certain he drank down a gallon or two while he was laughing.
Mmmmmm…a warm oil toddy. Just the thing on a cold winter night.
The upshot is we – and when I say we, I mean he – got the car put back together and all was right in my world again.
But here’s my problem, aside from yeah, not knowing to let the motor settle a bit before checking the stick and knowing exactly what “0% oil life remaining” actually means: if putting 12 quarts of oil in the car will cause all sorts of havoc, then why in hell can 12 quarts of oil fit in the crankcase?
It never once overflowed. It wasn’t like putting in too much gas where you get a stream of it down the side of the car and puddling on the ground. It all went in, slick and slippery as…well…you get what I’m saying. Seems to me the crankcase shouldn’t be big enough to get double the oil in the thing.
‘Cause after all, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person in the world who doesn’t quite get the modern-day phraseology.
0% oil life remaining…indeed.