April 23, 2017

The View Through the Steering Wheel

• By John F. Chisholm •

I have a 1997 Jeep Wrangler.  It’s a great little truck, only four cylinders but more than adequate for my purposes.  I use it as a utility vehicle, basic transportation.  It gets much better gas mileage than my full-sized Dodge pickup.  Among other assets, the Jeep has a real, honest-to-goodness clutch pedal with a mechanically linked transmission instead of a series of computer-actuated electric switches.  That means I can jump-start it, if necessary.  It also means that I can work on it without a computer, a pass-code that the manufacturer wouldn’t give me anyway and a ballooning parts account at the local dealer.  Altogether, that’s huge.

Plus, if I may say so, I like it because my wife doesn’t.

She’s right, it is cold in the winter having only a rag top.  But, more to the point, the seat remains adjusted the way I like it.  (Usually.)  The mirrors are always right where I left them every time I get back in.  In addition, the paraphernalia Wendy leaves behind in all our vehicles is notably absent.

Hey!  All that has to be worth something.

It certainly is to me.

We bought it used.  It was rusty even then.  There’s no back seat and few other amenities.  The radio works, but only because I fixed it.  The odometer didn’t work either so I have no idea how miles it’s seen.  As a general observation, I’d have to say that’s a large number.  Yes.  Very few of them were easy miles, either.

Understandably, it was getting more and more difficult finding a mechanic to sign off on its state-inspection sticker.

That point was driven home just recently.

The driver’s seat fell out.  Yes, we were moving, but not quickly.  (The Jeep doesn’t go quickly.)  I wasn’t adjusting it, either.  I went over a bump and bang!  There it went.  There I went, too.  Fortunately the frame caught me before I hit the pavement.  For the record, I was wearing my seatbelt.  It didn’t do any good.  It’s designed to stop people from being thrown forward or up.

Not down.

It was awkward driving home.  Exciting, too.  The seat canted farther and farther to the left with every bump.  (This is Maine.  There are a lot of those between here and anywhere else.)  In addition, please recall that the Jeep has a soft-top.  That means there really wasn’t anything stopping my slow tilt to port.  It was very disconcerting.  It seemed that I was getting older by the second, shrinking in fact, and with every pothole at that.

I suppose that we’re all aging but this process was faster.  Much faster.

Somehow, I made it to our door but I was looking through the steering wheel rather than over it when I finally pulled into the yard.

I hauled the Jeep in for repairs the next Monday.  It was gone for five weeks.

It returned vastly improved.  New body mounts have been installed.  The floor pan is clean, solid and undercoated.  Everywhere!  Whoa!  Imagine that.  In addition, it’s much warmer in the cab.  It’s quieter, too.  A number of serious drafts have simply blown away.  It hasn’t rained in a few weeks, the weather opting for snow instead, but I’ll swear it’s drier, too.

I’m even betting that I can get a state-inspection sticker affixed to its windshield.  I’m at least going to try.

It’s not all good news, though.

My wife came out to view the Jeep after it arrived home.  “Wow!” she exclaimed.  “What an incredible improvement.  It looks great.”  She walked around the truck, amazed, thinking about things for a moment.

“Hey!” she exclaimed.  “Maybe I’ll start driving it.”