Sunday, June 30, 2013

Maint Req'd

So on the way home from the hike up White Oak Canyon (pictures here - about the most picturesque hike in Shenandoah National Park) I took a wrong turn. I kept going on the the wrong road for a while, my spidey sense telling me that I was generally going in the right direction. That being said, I started to get pretty nervous and had my wife dig out my tertiary navigation system - my trusty old tom-tom. I say 'tertiary' as the primary and secondary systems were in failure. The primary system, my wife reading the printed out google directions to the lower trailhead parking improperly backwards to derive the trip home, thus giving me the wrong turn. My secondary system was my visual memory and internal compass. That was all screwed up from fatigue.

This meant plugging in the tom-tom to the only electrical outlet in the jeep which was conveniently located between my knees under the the steering wheel, a feat that requiring only basic contortions worthy of a 5th degree yogi. During this process I managed to keep keep the jeep on the road and probably only took out a couple of chickens that may or may not have been crossing the road. Why? I'm thinking because they are just dumb birds...

In any case, with a growing sense of dread, I waited for the tom-tom to charge sufficiently to power and get enough GPS signals to advise me on the proper route home. I had not reached a full panic yet, but suffice it to say that with the fatigue from the hike, I was not at my best. It was at this point that the jeep decided to try to push me over the edge. Now I have documented elsewhere (here and here) the attempts on my life by my jeep. Thus it should come as no surprise to most that the jeep took advantage of the situation to tweak me a bit.

What did it do? There is an innocuous blank spot on the control panel that I never paid much attention to. It would light briefly when I started the jeep, then go out with the rest of the lights. It was in this time of stress that the jeep decided to light up that particular panel with the very informative message "MAINT REQ'D".

"MAINT REQ'D"? Really? What does that mean? Drive 50 more miles and the tires fall off? The engine engulfs the entire vehicle in a fireball leaving nothing but charred occupants and a blackened spot where nothing will grow for 50 years? Or will the engine just stop, leaving me and wife stranded in the Appalachian foothills, playing out a Virginia version of 'Deliverance'? "MAINT REQ'D" - really? It's a jeep, there's always "MAINT REQ'D" - that's part of the 'jeep experience'. What nimrod at GM thought that would be a good thing to put on the control panel?

My reaction was predictable. We unplugged the tom-tom, as in the time spent cycling in and out of panic attacks we passed a couple of familiar landmarks and my primary navigation system came back online - which is to say my wife recognized a previous turn off and started giving me proper directions. I still proceeded to drive white knuckled, expecting the wheels to fall off at any minute, but resolved that I would get out of the foothills and as far as possible from gay hillbilly love (not that there's anything wrong with that...). Wife and I discussed stopping and turning the jeep off and on again, but dismissed it as it sounded like one of the stupid things you scream at doomed characters in movies not to do. You know, like when the babysitter decides to answer the door with the chainsaw guy waiting, or the girl who decides it's a great time for a midnight naked swim in 'Jaws'.

Since you are reading this you know nothing untoward happened. We made it home, and I unlocked the glove box and pulled out the owner's manual to see if it had some guidance on this peculiar status light. Sure enough, it was as dumb as I expected. At 82000 miles, this light comes on 'automatically' to remind you to have GM check your emissions system. An internet search confirmed that this light is mostly BS. I am guessing that the government had GM put in that light 'voluntarily' so that folks would do the right thing and maintain their pollution control systems. The whole thing is even more ironic since in Virginia I have to take the jeep into an inspection station every two years where they put it on a treadmill and use a probe up the tailpipe to verify that it's emissions are in order - a kind of official government car gay love thing (not that there's anything wrong with that...). Somewhere, there is a (now) unemployed GM car designer laughing his ass off over this as he balances his next Blatt's beer on his corpulent belly.

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