182: Figging It Out

I despise puzzles. Puzzles occur in life all the freaking time. There is the puzzle of people’s behavior: WHY are they doing the silly, unreasonable and downright stupid things that they are doing? What am I going to have to do to obtain my desired result from them? Then there are the puzzles in Math. I hated math all through school because as far as I could see, it was nothing but meaningless puzzles to solve and as I have already stated, I despise puzzles.

One puzzle I have had here lately was one with the car. We were experiencing a significant loss of power going up hills, forcing me to downshift to make it to the top. This is an issue, because I work in Ifrane, Morocco, which is located UP the mountain. Coming home, downhill all the way, is not a problem. Getting there each morning WAS.

So, to the mechanic, who changed out the spark plugs. Instant fix, with resultant return of power going uphill. Good. Then, we decided to visit Spain – a five-hour drive away. We stopped in Meknes, an hour’s drive into the trip, to gas up. As soon as we added gasoline, the car began to act up. If the road was level, or downhill, things were fine, and it ran great.

However – Spain is accessible over mountain ranges. There were considerable parts of the trip that were uphill. Uphill, things did not go well at all. The car sputtered, rattled, shook, chugged, coughed, and spit. It sounded awful, like the transmission was going to fall OUT. Did we get bad gas in Meknes? Water in the gasoline will cause these symptoms….

We discussed this all the way to Tetouan (four hours: chug, cough, spit, rattle, chug, chug) to Spain (another hour) and back (ditto). Two hours into the trip home, we had had enough. We stopped in the city of Ouezzane, where we had had the car repaired once before, and sought out the mechanic who had helped us before. When I described the symptoms, his first thought was bad gasoline, too.

However, my husband had been wondering whether the trouble was the new spark plugs. When the first mechanic changed out the spark plugs, the ones that he removed had three prongs for the spark. The ones we were able to replace them with had one prong for the spark. Mojo was wondering if that might make a difference. Now, in 35 years worth of various makes and models of car ownership, a spark plug is a spark plug to me. Never before had a different sort of spark plug made any difference at all in how my cars ran.

In Ouezzane, the car parts store had in stock the three-prong spark plugs. Mojo bought four of them, and the obliging mechanic installed them for us, because he had the deep-well socket wrench to do it, and did NOT want to take any money for the work (I love this country, and I paid him anyway). Then we were on our way again.

For the remaining three hours of our trip, even going up the mountain to Azrou, not a single chug, cough, rattle or spit. Single post spark plugs do not work in our little car for more than a couple of days. Who knew? At least my husband figured out the puzzle.

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