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I feel your pain

February 25, 2015
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Intermittent problems are very common in today's cars. We call it the "toothache syndrome." The pain that goes away when you get to the dentist's office. The noise or vibration that goes away when you get to the auto repair center. Hardly a day goes by when we don't see at least one case of a problem that isn't there anymore. You, the driver, know that it happened, and feel sure that it will happen again and want us to diagnose and repair it. Sometimes we can, sometimes we can't. Please believe it's not because we don't want to. We do. It's just that many times it's impossible. We do understand. We are concerned for your safety. We just may not have enough information to go on to solve the mystery until the problem returns.

The other day I was driving my wife's car, running an errand when I felt a sudden misfire in the engine. I knew that the engine had just shut off and back on again after a fraction of a second. I was going around a corner at the time, and was low on fuel, so I grasped at the conclusion that it had been caused by being low on fuel. I stopped and topped off the tank and then headed home. Within one mile, at 30 miles per hour, the engine shut off completely. While still coasting I shoved it into neutral and turned the key and it restarted. I put it back in drive and took the groceries home, hoping I was not going to get stuck in the middle of the road on the way. It's amazing how a bump in the engine can make a simultaneous bump in your heart rhythm.

After unloading, it restarted and ran fine all the way to my shop. I found myself telling my Master Tech the same thing so many customers had told us over the years. "It's running fine now, but there is something wrong with it, because it stopped on me. Dammit. You have to do something." I got the same look he probably gave you when it was your turn. And, I sign his paycheck.

"Okay, we'll try," he said. Well, the only thing shown in the computer was a defect in the idle speed control motor, so that was replaced, simply because it was defective, and there was a remote possibility that it could have caused the shutdown. The car started and ran fine.

The next day I picked it up and started off. Within a mile, I felt the bump of a misfire again, causing a miss in my heartbeat. Maybe I was just paranoid. Maybe it will be alright. Within another mile, it shut completely off again. It restarted immediately, and I drove it back to the shop. It ran great all the way.

Here's where the difference comes in. Some customers, (not you, of course), use this interval to remove a shoe and throw it at our handiest representative's head. Figuratively, of course. I, on the other hand, having been the one ducking said shoe for 40 years, decided to conduct myself with more decorum. I simply asked him to repair it, or shove it into the canal out back, and I took the loaner car and went home.

When I go back, I'll have to see if I need a checkbook to pay for the repair, or a crane to remove a car from the canal. In either case, please know that I feel your pain. Dammit.

(ITALICS) Larry DeHays is the author of the book "The Car Care World", a compilation of his most popular columns, available through or He owns DeHays Automotive, Inc., of Fort Myers Beach. He has been an ASE Certified Technician for 37 years and an arbitrator for the Florida Lemon Law for 16 years. For more information go to or



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