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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Little Ms Do-It-Yourself

For me the worst part of the whole broke and desperate scenario has always been the "what if" question. What if my car breaks down and I can't afford to take it to the shop? What if the washer stops working and I can't afford to call the repair man? What if my son gets a hole in his tennis shoes and I can't afford to replace them? These are scary thoughts and if you don't have an answer they can be down right terrifying!

A long time ago (way before the broke and desperate scenario) I decided I didn't like the feeling of being helpless and at the mercy of either some overpriced repairman or the inflated retail establishments. I figured if it was broken already, and I was careful, I might as well try to fix it first, right? I have been known in years past to take apart vacuum cleaners, laptop computers, toasters, ect. And the truth is the only one of all these things I was not able to fix was the toaster. I was not always sure what it was I did that actually fixed them, but I was grateful and delighted that they once again worked.

The other day I was once again faced with a "what if" situation come to life. The power window on the drivers side of my car stopped working, then a couple of days later the power locks and my alarm system and remote stopped as well. This is not a catastrophic event, I realize this. But it is inconvenient and could be an indicator of a larger problem.

After the initial panic subsided I summoned forth "Little Ms. Do-It-Yourself". This is my alter ego that hangs out in my subconscious until she is asked to come out and play, then happily trots out to explore what ever problem I am facing. My first thought was it had to be fuses. When I couldn't locate the fuse box because it wasn't where I expected it to be (under the driver side dashboard), I consulted my owners manual and was informed it was under the hood in my engine compartment in a locked case. Okaaayyyy. It took me a half an hour to wrestle that box open only to find I have 82 fuses. EIGHTY TWO!!!!! Ok, deep breaths, consult the manual, find the diagram, realize the diagram is actually of the box upside down that I am looking at, identify the right fuses, pull them out and.... crap. The fuses are fine. Now what? My son's comment was "don't worry mom, we will take it in have it looked at". NO. This shall not defeat me. I decided to go searching for answers. After 15 minutes of searching on Google and phrasing my question six different ways, I stumbled on a forum dedicated to my vehicles model. Evidently my problem is relatively common for my car make/year and others have gone searching for the same solution. Lucky for me they have posted both question and several solutions.

I am the first to admit I am not a mechanic. I am a 46 yr old soccer mom who specializes in arts and crafts. But I have always have a fascination for cars and love getting greasy in the pursuit of how things work. That being said, I was pretty skeptical about the solutions posted. Of course the first one was to replace the fuses. Check. The second was so far fetched I had to reread it 3 times to make sure I was understanding it correctly. Here is what it said:

"Remove both battery cables from the terminals, tap them together a couple of times, leave off for at least 5 minutes then reattach the cables to the terminals, making sure to clean the posts of any corrosion."

Really? Should I do a little "electrical system" dance and tap my heels together 3 times as well? Ok, enough of the sarcasm, but you get the idea. I had a little disbelief going on here, but what the heck. Of course the first time I tried it it didn't work. After laughing my butt off at myself that I had actually went through the little process with any thought that it COULD work I realised I had skipped one part. I didn't wait the 5 minutes before reconnecting the cables. So I did it again, waited 10 minutes (just in case) and reconnected the cables. It worked. I couldn't believe it. The logical part of my brain knows it probably has something to do with resetting some electrical power module thingy, but the fanciful part of my brain just said YIPEEEEE!

What is the point of this whole commentary? The point is this. Before we let the panic and despair of the whole situation pull us further under we can look for do-it-yourself solutions. It may not be as easy as picking up the phone and saying "come fix this", or as quick as just running and buying another one, but it is doable. When you feel you are out of options and facing a real dilemma, change your mindset.

Try to calm the panic and evaluate the problem. If the vacuum cleaner is not sucking pull off the hose and check for clogs. Not the problem? Is the brush thing spinning? Look for answers on the Internet, call and ask everyone you know, take the thing apart and look for loose wires, clogs, blown fuses, ect. Don't be afraid to try and fix it yourself first. If you still can't figure it out and can't afford to fix/replace it look for alternatives. Can you live without the window rolling down? Could you borrow a vacuum from your neighbor a couple of times until you can come up with a solution? Could you ask a good friend if you can run a couple of loads of laundry at her place while you sit and have coffee (and some Banana Nut bread you baked and brought with you)? Then, after you have bought a little time look for ways you can divert funds from other areas to cover this expense, keep asking to see if anyone knows of a inexpensive alternative or if anyone knows someone qualified to fix the thing who will work with you. If you put the word out you might even find someone who has an "extra" of whatever it is and is willing to give it to you or work out a fair deal.

If we change our mindset to "I can and will find a solution" instead of throwing our hands in the air and wailing about the injustice of the universe we can find a way to overcome any obstacle life throws in our way.

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