I just saved $1000 J
Well, not quite 1000. The estimate was $1130 & change to replace a throttle
position sensor, clean out the throttle body, and replace the rear brake pads
and rotors on the Jeep of the noteworthy wife of Bruck (JONWOB). The TPS and
throttle cleaning would have set me back a little over $600, and the rest was
for the rear brakes. We bought the TPS online for about $50 (OEM part), and the
brake pads and rotors retailed for $92. I did the replacements over the
weekend. So 1130 – 50 – 92 = 988 (I did not use a calculator for this, thank
you very much). I guess I should also deduct the $140 diagnostic fee, which we did
pay, but which would have been deducted had we voluntarily subjected ourselves
to complete financial buggering at the hands of the mendacious local Chrysler
dealer’s service department. So $848 would be the actual savings, which I still
find pretty satisfying.
Engineering is a calling. There’s a certain way of thinking,
a prism through which we interpret the world around us that is unique to
engineers. You either have it or you don’t. I don’t know if you’re born with it
or if it’s learned in early childhood, but by jr. high or high school, if you’re
honestly wondering whether or not you’re an engineer, you ain’t one.
Engineering school doesn’t teach you to be an engineer. It provides
rigorous classes and laboratories to refine and develop existing ones, and
weeds out the misguided non-engineers in the process. And of course it provides
the educational credentials necessary for the engineer to find honest
My readers with whom I’m personally acquainted (which is
pretty much all of you) know that I’m an engineer. My specialization is
Electrical Engineering (“double E”), and most of my professional experience is
in electrical and automotive applications. At this point in my career, I’m no
longer “in” engineering, as I now do personnel and financial/contract
management in an R&D organization. But I’m still an engineer all the way
down to the marrow, as I have been since at least my early teens, which harkens
back to the disco era.
So you can see why I find it sadly laughable that certified,
highly-trained mechanics would want to charge me over $600 to replace an
external sensor (they wanted $110 for the same part) and clean the throttle
body at $130 (which it didn’t need – it was squeaky clean but I guarandamntee
they wouldn’t have told me that). The rest of the figure was labor, which wasn’t
separately costed out, but had to be at least a few hours of the expert
Chrysler mechanics’ time. I timed myself for this part of the repair. With no
experience in Chrysler engines (although they’re all basically the same, don’t tell
my old Ford friends), the repair took me exactly 58 minutes. And that includes
running up and down the basement stairs a few times for tools.
I share this little story to exemplify the engineering
mindset, and also to brag about saving money, which is another key feature of
There are some problems with engineering as a career. It
tends to be good for younger people, but for engineers that stay in the field,
careers level off at about age 40 plus or minus, and stay flat or even shrink
in terms of compensation and opportunities. As the late Ann Landers (I’m pretty
sure she’s been dead a while) used to say, nobody can take advantage of you
without your permission. To be honest, we do own some culpability in this
regard, mainly in the form of skills obsolescence, but we also get marginalized
by the large companies for which most of us work. A principal form of this
marginalization is the use of the term “engineer.” People who are not engineers
often call themselves such, or are thusly nominated due to their job titles,
which are invented by HR departments, which virtually never contain anything
close to an engineer. The problem is that we engineers then get equated with salespeople,
designers, repairmen, and assorted techies, and thereby experience a certain
dilution of our professional status.
But we engineers know who the real engineers are. I can’t
give you chapter and verse as to how, but I can tell within five minutes of
meeting one. This is a genuine example of takes-one-to-know-one.
Last week the Kenyan read a primetime speech expounding to
the waiting world on why we are getting back into the War on Terror. In it he
clearly explained that we are going to destroy the “Islamic State” terrorists
in Iraq and Syria by hunting them down and snuffing them out, but not by using
any combat troops. Of course we will be deploying ground troops, but they will
act in an advisory capacity to the brave and reliable local warriors. This may
sound familiar to those of you who remember our early forays into Viet Nam in
the Kennedy era (yours truly was still a set of unaffiliated gametes at that juncture).
One particularly curious aspect of the president’s speech
(which, to be fair, was probably the first time he’d seen it, so I’m sure it
was just as big of a surprise to him) was his assertion that the Islamic State
terrorists are not actually Muslims. Questions flooded into my mind:
- Why, then, would they call themselves “Islamic?”
Are other, “true” Muslims also denying IS’s
If they’re not Muslims, what are they then?
Why does it matter whether they are Muslim or
How does the Kenyan know one way or another?
It reminded me of a rather one-sided conversation I once had
with an outspoken Hindu co-worker about Christian denominations, in which he
delineated those he considers to be true worshipers of God. Turns out it’s
Roman Catholics; put a mark in the Pope’s win column. While I take a broader
view of Christendom, I found it rather unusual that a polytheist would even hold
an opinion on such matters.
Christianity is another example, although somewhat less
distinct, of takes-one-to-know-one. Actually a cleaner statement would be
takes-one-to-know-who-isn’t-one. You may have observed that it’s only
Christians who make the case that abortion clinic bombers are acting outside of
the faith, and likewise the whackos from Kansas who protest at military
funerals. Non-Christians in the secular media and pop culture are all too happy
to lump us all together with the killers and lunatics.
Hence my double-take at Hussein’s observation that IS
terrorists are not actually Muslims.
The rotor and brake pad replacement was a little more
involved. The calipers and pads came off easily enough, but the rotors were
really stuck on, which is not altogether unusual after 100,000 miles. On the
passenger side I had to apply penetrating oil and let it sit overnight, after
which the rotor reluctantly released its grip. On the driver side I had to
resort to a clever innovation I learned on the almighty internet: forcing it
off with spacers and bolts threaded through the caliper housing. At this
writing, the JONWOB is back on the road and I’m $848 less poor.
Another key component of the engineering mindset is something
that occupies a zone about halfway between confidence and arrogance: we believe
that we can do anything. And for the most part we’re right. Nothing magic of
course, but the basic idea is, if something can be done, fixed, or figured out,
the engineer is your best person for providing the solution.
So of course I’m wondering, with the hundreds or thousands
of “non-combat” advisors that the Golfer-in-Chief is sending to the Middle East,
is there a single engineer in the bunch? Now the US Army has whole brigades of
fine soldiers who are called engineers based on their MOS (specialization), and
I’m sure some of them will be going to the land of kibbie and falafel. But that’s
apples and oranges. I’m talking about rambling wrecks from Georgia Tech, or
beaver ring-wearing MIT grads, or gearheads like myself who bleed maize and
blue. If there are any of those, will they get a chance to help fix things? Has
the First Vacationer ever even met an actual engineer? I’m not saying we could
turn back millennia of history. I’m just saying it couldn’t hurt to give us a
shot at it.
Meanwhile I’ve got to figure out what to do with the $848
that’s burning a hole in my pocket.