I am no mechanic. Don’t really want to be. But, if there is a downside out here it is engines and our reliance on them. I rely on engines to do work, generate power, run appliances and to inflict regular episodes of pain and trauma in an otherwise idyllic life. And I rely on my Honda 50 to push my boat. Sadly, it is failing me. Being a mechanic – even a poor one – is mandatory.
Of course, most mechanical problems are simple. If it ain’t broke in an obvious way, then it is likely just fuel or spark. So, one checks fuel supply in all it’s various permutations and then, if you are still having trouble, you do the same for spark. I always do fuel first because the logic of fuel running down pipes and through filters and into a mixing bowl makes sense to me.
Electronics, especially the kind that comes out of little black boxes that have myriad wires attached, makes no sense. I can check the final endpiece – the sparkplug – but almost everything in between there and the battery is a mystery.
But do not allow me to mislead you in this. Just because the one system (fuel) makes sense, it does not follow that the manufacturer has put that system together in a sensible way. In fact, one can count on the manufacturer to put it together in a manner that requires the dexterity of a surgeon, the flexibility of a monkey and the strength of pneumatic tools to disassemble. I spent two hours attempting to undo the bottom bolt on the air cleaner. Access was limited to the equivalent of trying to take out your own prostate by way of your own anus with one arm tied behind your back. Wearing clumsy work gloves.
Given that I skinned my knuckles several times in the tight confines of the engine compartment, it may be easier to remove one’s own prostate.
At a certain point, the reasonable person gives up and transfers the problem along with dollops of cash to someone else. And, of course, I delayed that decision until it was the only one left to me. I called the hungriest and most ambitious of the outboard mechanics in the area – the one who is always looking for business. “Hey, J, got a Honda 50 here. Running rough. Can I bring it in?”
“Yeah, sure. I’ve been turning people away but I know you folks out there really need your motors. I cannot get to it for a week at the very least. Sorry. And, just so you know, the problem you are describing is one I have fixed but only by doing everything. I have no idea what causes that so I just start at square one and keep replacing parts til something works. The hard part is taking it out on the water to test it all the time. Need two guys to do that. Your engine issue will just ‘eat gobs o’ time’.”
“Well, in that case, I’ll keep at it for a bit longer. Maybe I quit too soon. I’ll get back to you.” Sheesh! That was ‘mechanic speak’ for: I have no idea and I will charge you a lot to learn.
I tried another. “Yeah, well, could be anything, ya know? We been havin’ a lot of carb rebuilds this spring ’cause of the ethanol fuel, ya know? That stuff’s just playin’ havoc with carbs, ya know?” That is mechanic speak for: whatever it is, we are going to start by rebuilding your carbs! Get ready.”
But, it is the way of all things. Sometimes you just have to bend over and have your prostate removed. Then you can go about your business. Me and my Honda………….getting old together, losing parts – but still running. Kinda.