Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Home Mechanic

Over the years we've had many mechanics work on the golf cart. It seems that each has their strengths and not-so-strengths. One mechanic was great until I discovered he rented my cart out while it was in for repair. The tourists who returned it while I was there to pick it up warned me not to rent that cart - 'it's terrible'. Hah - I know that, it's MY cart.

Often my cart is returned with new problems, even though the original problem might be fixed. Take the cart in for a loose belt, and when it comes back it no longer has brakes. Investigate a dead battery problem, replace the generator, and discover that the 'new' generator is a model known for poor quality; this generator would haunt us for more than 6 months of dead batteries before another mechanic replaced it with a used one that still works well after at least two years.

Take a well-running cart in to rebuild the muffler, and other pieces are not put back correctly - the cart is quiet but plods along slower than a turtle. Take it to another mechanic to fix this issue, and the cart comes back running well, except it won't start when the engine is cold.

Replace the spark plug and suddenly the piece that covers the plug keeps popping off, stalling the cart without warning.

Rebuild the muffler again (this salt air is tough on mufflers!), and again other pieces are not put back correctly and the cart is barely moving. Take it to the other mechanic, again, and this time he decides to take the entire engine apart. He announces the inside is basically a pile of rust and it's just a matter of time. We need a new half engine - whatever a 'half engine' is. He puts all the pieces back (I think), and seals the engine up with silicone to stop the oil from leaking out. We drop him off at his house and get 1.5 blocks down the road before we cannot go any farther. The hot engine smells toxic, and the cart won't move. I walk back to his house and tell him to fix the cart and then take it out and drive it around before he ever brings it back to me. 'No tengo prisa' - I'm not in a hurry. I'd rather the cart is fixed, if that is possible.

So...considering all the above, you can understand why we try to fix the cart ourselves before calling in the mechanics. Miguel rewired the headlights and we learned which wires to wiggle when they shorted out. We learned how to put the cap back on the spark plug when it stalled, and eventually Miguel rigged up a screw to keep the top of the spark plug from popping off. Miguel has placed twisted pieces of wire here and there to stop critical pieces from rattling around under the seat.

Early on I noticed that a mechanic would show us how well the engine was running by running it in neutral, and just before we took off, he would reach under the seat and 'adjust' something. I came to the conclusion that there was some secret thing-a-ma-bob under the seat that I needed to learn how to operate. It's a yellow plastic spring-loaded thingy - it puts the cart into neutral and lets you run the engine. When you want to drive, you have to flip it one flip over or the engine won't work. That little yellow thing is what keeps us and the cart on the road. It's the only way to warm up the engine before we try to drive off.

This latest issue of not starting when cold is only about four months old (since the first time the muffler was rebuilt), but the mechanics do not fix what seems to me to be a simple loose accelerator cable; they work on other things and the loose cable continues to haunt us.

While Miguel was away last week, I only took the cart out twice. Of course the engine, being cold, would not turn over - no spark. There is a little cable that is attached to the engine that you can push and it shoves gas through something which triggers the engine. Then you can let the engine run (with your foot on the accelerator) to warm it up. The little yellow thingy has to be in the neutral position - I know how to flip that piece and push on the cable, with the seat up, and my foot outstretched to push on the accelerator. Once the engine catches, I can release the cable and just keep my foot on the gas and let it run to warm up.

But - the warm-up no longer worked. By the time I took my foot off the gas, put the yellow thingy into drive, lowered the seat, hopped on, and put the car gear into drive, the gas would not flow. The only solution was to try to push on that cable with the cart in drive. So...with the cart in gear, one foot on the accelerator, the seat up, one foot on the ground out of the way of the wheels (to avoid being run over) - a delicate balance - I pushed the cable. The cart lurched forward, I quickly took my foot off the accelerator, lowered the seat, jumped on, and gave it the gas. Off we went. I did this twice, but it was hard on the nerves. Mostly I took taxis.

When I got back yesterday, Miguel informed me that he had a secret. He has drilled a hole through the front panel, and connected a wire to that loose cable. The wire sticks out by his right leg, and when he wants the engine to turn over, he just pulls on the wire and off we go. We no longer have to warm up the engine.

Even with the accelerator pedal to the floor, sometimes we are going too slow, so he pulls on the wire and that shoots more gas through the engine, and we speed up. I really think we should be able to find a mechanic to tighten up the cable, but they aren't looking at the obvious. I guess for now we'll stick with the home remedy, until some other issue forces us to track down a mechanic once again. I fear for the life of my golf cart - someone is going to kill him one of these days when they dissect his inards.


Ann said...

Sounds like all the problems we have with cars--I hate taking my car in for service--have had the same thing happen--take it in for one thing and something else develops!

Islagringo said...

Too bad you can't find a mechanic for golf carts as good as the car mechanic down the road from you. I swear by Flaco.

P.S. When I drove by your house last Friday to get my car, somebody was tinkering with your cart and it sure wasn't Miguel! Yours is the green zebra, right?

Anonymous said...

Boy Sue, that wore me out just reading about all the work involved getting Limey to run.

Sue said...

Yes, keeping Limey running has been a challenge. But it beats the alternative, I think, which right now would mean no golf cart. So we do what we must, but there are times we'd just like to shove him into the lagoon (shhh...don't tell him I said that!).

Islagringo - I wish I could find just one mechanic who could fix everything - seems they all have their strengths, and the one I really like is really busy and not always able to come when we need him. And are you sure you know 'my' Miguel? (there are so many 'Miguels' here). I just checked and it was him you saw - he says he was there 3 times trying to figure out what to do with it. But it's still working, so that little wire is doing its thing - still! :-)

Bennie said...


It sounds like Limey is still holding a grudge from when you rode that other golf cart that was so quiet a few weeks back.

Islagringo said...

Now I am really confused! I thought your Miguel was the band leader that plays at Jax?? (either way, yours sounds like quite a catch!)

Sue said...

Nope, that Miguel is not 'my' Miguel. And yes, 'my' Miguel is quite handy to have around - I'll keep him. :-)