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Dashboard Confessional

Since starting this whole crazy automotive adventure I have helped tear apart two dashboards and have reinstalled the instrument cluster of one. So far my record’s not looking so good on the reinstall side of things, but I’ve averaged one a year so far and my internship this summer only started last Tuesday.

Last time it was a matter of replacing the switch on the steering wheel for the washer fluid. This time it’s a matter of putting one of the vents back in place for the A/C and heater. Only it’s become a lot more involved than the master technician I’m shadowing anticipated. Currently the entire heater unit’s sitting on the bench as we wait for new parts to arrive.

All told my dashboard experiences have made me acutely aware of how much but also how little is actually contained under the guise of an aesthetic concealment job. A lot seems to be clever engineering to enhance air flow but in some cases — like on the early 1990s Chevy Suburbans the school district owns — it also contains the car’s computer. It continues to amaze me how tech savvy the automotive industry has become. It’s not on the same level of computer cleverness as an iPod, but without that, the Suburban is going nowhere fast.

The PCM, car’s computer, hangs out on the far right of the car behind the glove box. But then there’s all that space in the center with the radio, so what’s going on there? With my forearm shoved up one of the larger air vents that area contains useful wires and more duct work for airflow. These hollow cavities seem to be engineered to collapse in the event of a crash. Basically, they crumple and you don’t.

Moving across to the left is the instrument cluster. It’s pretty straightforward on the the inside. The gauges tell you about the vehicle’s health and all that is processed by way of just a handful of wires. It just helps when you put the wires back in properly … The steering wheel and its accoutrements also takes up a lot of room.

But it still seems like a lot of interior space that’s just there. Maybe that’s where the engineers should look to condense fuel mileage on future concept cars. Either that or an easy way for drivers to vacuum out the airways on their own. Not everyone has a technician with a skinny little arm to flail around up there and dust.


The wheels on the bus

My summer job working for the school district’s transportation department started yesterday.

From now until the end of August I get to do all the miscellaneous “easy” tasks on the school buses as they come in for their annual inspection. Easy is in quotes only because it covers all of the things that aren’t so technical that even me with my limited knowledge can help the trained technicians get the job done.

Once again I have gained a greater appreciation for the folks who clean up after the rest of the world.

Remember riding the school bus as a middle schooler and reading all the graffiti left behind by the high school kids? You always knew which seat was yours because of the “Metallica Rules!” or the “Ashley and Bradon FOREVER” tattooed in black ink on the brown vinyl. Yet every fall the territorial markings would be mysteriously gone.

Yep. That’s my job. Using industrial strength wipes to eliminate all the graffiti and wielding a mega-charged blow dryer and patch kit to repair all the little cracks in the seats. Failing that I also learned yesterday how to man-handle the seats to strap a new vinyl cover in place. My job description also covers removing and cleaning all the colored lenses on the backs of the buses. It’s remarkable how much grit accumulates there…and then under your nails…but those are minor details.

Bottom line — I’m employed (for a time) and thus am inspired again to post regularly.

Here’s a preview of blogs to come:
-The intricate procedure of naming a car
-Highway/roadside assistance sampler
-Antique cars and why we love them