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Chuck Hinman: IJMA. Changing Oil

Changing Oil. Chuck decides at age 42 to change the oil in his car, knowing that his Dad always said he should "stay ten feet away from cars."
Next earlier Chuck Hinman column - Chuck Hinman Veterans Day 2003

By Chuck Hinman

Changing Oil

It is a fact of life that some people are blessed with more skills and aptitudes than others. I have observed that some parent do a better job of teaching or training their children household skills. And yes, even horse-sense seems unevenly distributed.

I wasn't blessed with automotive maintenance skills as many are. Maybe that's why the Lord never made it possible for me to own a car until I was twenty-seven years old. There was an element of truth in Dad's admonition that I, Chuck Hinman, should "stay ten feet away from cars." That was funny but I began to know it was true and it hurt.

Chuck attempts first oil change at age 42

In 1964 when I was 42 years old, I attempted my first oil change operation. It was on our '62 Chevy which our kids affectionately called 'Blackie.'

We lived at 3812 Lester here in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. On Saturdays, all our neighborhood men and boys did maintenance work on their cars from sun-up to sundown.

Something came over Chuck to make him think he could do the job

Something came over me to think I could change the oil in our car like the other guys in our neighborhood. I backed Blackie out of the garage (like I knew what I was doing), methodically removed the five quarts of oil from the trunk and set them on the ground nearby.

Everything was going OK when I began to whistle softly. I should have known that I only whistle when I don't have a clue what I'm doing. Just 'stay focused,' whatever that means, I kept reminding myself as lying on my back under the car, I started looking for any 'little dealie' which might suggest where the engine oil is stored.

Job done with an acceptable - for Chuck - loss of oil

Voila! Here it is and with an acceptable (for me) loss of oil on the driveway and down my neck, the oil was gushing into the one gallon plastic milk carton. It wouldn't collect all the oil but close enough for me. What a piece of cake! Why haven't I done this before? I became downright arrogant as I emerged from under the car, spitting and wiping oil from my neck.

Putting the five quarts of oil in went reasonably well. I lost quite a bit of oil on the motor not having a funnel. In years to come, the only reminder of this incident was the large oil stain on the driveway that I learned to lie about when people asked "what happened?"

Well, that's not the end of the story.

Dad echoes words of service station attendants about high oil level

Several weeks later when we were making a trip to Nebraska to visit my parents, every service station attendant who checked the oil level, all commented they had never seen oil so high on the dip-stick. Not wanting to be bothered by 'idle-talk,' I shrugged my shoulders and drove on.

Not long after we arrived at my parents, Dad got around (as he always did) to checking the oil in my car as though trying to stir-up an argument. Imagine my surprise when he gasped and said the identical words the service station attendants in three states had said.

When I had no intelligible explanation other than "Da," he said "We're going to Barneston (Nebraska) and get this oil changed and I'll pay for it." "OK if this makes you feel better," I thought to myself. Now I understand why I moved 307 miles from home after Connie and I tied the marriage knot. Yssh!

New problem - oil level is too low

Several weeks passed and Connie called me at the office from the Limestone 66 service station. "Honey, I didn't want to bother you at work but this man insisted. He says there is no oil on the transmission dip stick. He acted like it was serious and you should know!"

I calmly told her to have him add oil to bring it up to an appropriate level. That turned out to be four quarts -- the identical amount of oil in the plastic milk jug still in the garage awaiting disposal. Oh, oh -- now it all begins to make sense....

I made Connie swear she would never breathe a word of this latest discovery to Dad who was looking for any reason to take my life!

The really big trip in the car with the oil adventures

In the summer of the year of that unbelievable abuse to Blackie's lubrication system, we rented a Jayco travel trailer, pulled it behind Blackie and toured the majestic but rugged Canadian Rockies. In all that multi-thousand mile trip, Blackie never coughed or sneezed one time. She (he) met ever challenge I put her to and never groaned or complained one time.

We made the trip against the urgent pleas of friends and co-workers who knew the 'Blackie story' well.

Chuck late at night honks at friends on arrival home

We arrived home in Bartlesville late at night. I couldn't resist going out of our way to drive by the homes of my friends and co-workers to give them a long and loud blast on Blackie's horn to let them know we had arrived home safely despite their dire warnings!

What a car! We love you Blackie, wherever you are and will always consider you a part of our happy family.

Written by Chuck Hinman. Emailed: Date: Thursday, 29 April 2010.

Editorial Note: Some information from a later email (13 May 2011) has been inserted into the earlier version. - RHS

This story was posted on 2014-11-23 03:32:38
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