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Yesterday I went to the nearest Nordstrom, about 45 minutes away, to return an unworn Juicy jacket (hurray for the Anniversary Sale combined with the employee discount so that Juicy products are only grossly overpriced instead of obscenely overpriced) that C2 decided would be better off back in her bank account than sitting on her floor while she’s out of the country for a few months.

When I got close to the mall I noticed that the charge light on my dashboard was on. A few symptoms over the past few months have indicated that there might be a problem with my newish alternator, but nothing serious. I stopped at an AutoZone to have them check the voltage at the battery (my Aryan Supercar, the flagship of the line 22 years ago, doesn’t have a voltage gauge, a groß oversight as far as I’m concerned), to see if I should drive home as long as I didn’t turn off the car at any point (I knew enough to know that there wasn’t enough juice to restart the car without a jump). He spent a few minutes under the hood and couldn’t get a reading, so I called AAA for a tow home because I was afraid the car would die in the middle of the Narrows Bridge in the heart of Friday afternoon commute time. The tow truck driver also looked under the hood and I asked him if the charge light on was an indication that a tow would be a good idea. He said yes, but in our conversation on the way home I gathered that he didn’t really have a clue: I don’ think he had anything better to do than spend the next few hours towing my car, during which he told me a few of his stories about driving “fucked up” and that he’d fixed his own clutch because he’d just been fired, but that was right before he got this job.

When I got home I looked under the hood to remind myself of how to replace the alternator, which I’d ordered while waiting for the tow, a job simple enough for me to do mostly by myself with the car manual and a few phone calls (I can read, so I’m pretty good with bolt-on, bolt-off). Then I noticed an empty pulley, and I’m pretty sure that pulleys are never used merely as decorative devices. And then I noticed this:

belt

Pieces of belt wrapped around the fan, pieces that neither the AutoZone guy, the tow guy, nor I noticed. Pieces that explain why the charge light went on and that the car surely would have died mid-highway. Good news for me because that probably means that I simply need a new belt and not a new alternator.

Obviously, the belt was in bad shape, the other ones probably were as well, and two of the five have to come off to replace the broken one anyway, so we replaced all five belts. There’s a lot going on under this hood, and the placement of a lot of necessary nuts and bolts have convinced Captain OCD that the Germans used the cars they exported to the US as a means of getting back at us for defeating them in the war and that the German versions of these cars have neatly arranged, easily accessible everything. We (that means mostly he) had great difficulty accessing a tensioning screw for the power-steering pump. The bolt on the end of the pulley attached to the pump is about half the size of my fist, and he started searching for a wrench big enough to fit over it (when one works on pipe for a living, one has gigantic tools, albeit not often metric). Captain OCD has blinders on when working so, for example, if I say, “Be careful that in the process of muscling around that 15-pound wrench that you don’t break those tiny 22-year-old vacuum lines that are as brittle as a nonagenarian’s femur” he says, “But I have to get it off.” To him, the immediate job at hand is the only thing that matters, and he doesn’t worry about fixing the collateral damage until later. Which is why I prefer that he stay the hell away from my car unless he’s under supervision. Which is fine with him because he’d prefer to stay the hell away from my car whether supervised or not.

Because the tensioning bolt was so hard to access, I thought Mr. Gorilla Guns was going to use the monster wrench to loosen the power-steering pump to move the pulley, and I can assure you that that process would have gone pear-shaped in a hurry. I suggested that he not loosen the power steering pump. “Give me some credit! I’m not taking it off. Haven’t you ever walked a belt onto a pulley?” He was merely using the wrench to turn the pulley so he could walk the belt fully into place.

Not till later did I wonder how many husbands have been incredulous that their wives have never walked a belt onto the pulley attached to the power steering pump.