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When Gas Stations were Service Stations


I walked in the cluttered office and in the corner in a narrow corner squeezed between his desk and the wall, was the owner. Matt I was to learn. I told him we were in transit, I told him about the error message and he grabbed a laptop, opened the door, plugged in. “Hmmm 1997. Nothing before 2000 on this. Have to fool it. “ He flipped through a few screens back, forth, and bingo. Sensor Fault. “Ever get this error message?” He asked. I told him about my Christmas Tree Dashboard lights, but not this, and about the new message and lack of power. “That’s LIMP MODE.” He said. “Got any Viagra?” I asked him and he laughed. I liked him right away. I liked him even more when he rebooted the system and when every light on the dash went out, all of them including the old ones and the new one (Gearbox Malfunction), I was amazed. He popped the hood. “Wonder what that gas smell is?” Oops. He pulled off the covers to the injectors. “Nothing obvious. Keep an eye on that.” He got back in the car to check the dash. My wife asked him about the gas smell. “How fast can you get out of the car?” he asked seriously. “Got a match?” she asked. “Insurance paid up?” he asked me.

He recommended I just drive it and see how she performed. Limp mode was just a way to put the engine on slow mode if some other system was impinged. Now that the lights were off, we should be okay. If not, “Here’s my card. Call me if you need me.” And off we went. The lights remained off for 8 whole miles then GEARBOX came back on, and Limpy was back. I called and arranged to drop the car off Monday morning at 7:30. We made it to the hotel about 30 minutes down the road, and parked her. We would locate an Enterprise Car Rental Agency the following day, no U-Haul and no hauler, just a Nissan Sentra. Figured we would drive the Jag to the Enterprise location, park it there, use the rental over the weekend, then drop it off Monday morning and pick up the Jag for the Monday morning appointment.

Funny thing was that Saturday morning, when I started the Jag, all the lights were OUT again. Normal. No issues. I was still taking no chances, so we parked the Jag and drove to the Reunion events in the rental car, then Monday morning dropped the Nissan and drove the Jag to Matt’s Getty Station. Did fine, no lights. Of course it was cooler, rainy in fact with 74 degree weather.

Matt’s mechanic worked from 7:30 to 12:00. Figured out it was a wheel motion sensor sending wrong signals to the ABS system, got a new sensor and installed it after getting my permission (“It will cost $400 for parts and labor, sorry, it’s a Jag.”)

We went for breakfast came back and waited, watched while Kevin test drove it once, again, and again. Around 11:30 I was called back to the bay for a consult. “I put in the new sensor, and am getting good signals from here to my meter, but it’s not coming out of the module. It’s the module that’s bad.” “About two grand right?” “At least. But if you don’t mind not having ABS brakes….you’re fine to drive it.” “What about the gas smell?” “You overfill it? In the heat? On the highway running 80 mph?” Well, gas expands when it get’s hot. Don’t overfill it.”

What happened next restored by faith in humanity. Matt told me he would take the sensor out since I didn’t need it, and mine back in, and would just charge me labor. Kevin brought the car around and we all gathered in the office and I told him about my Audi with the hot steering wheel and the serpentine belt break. I asked him what I owed him for labor for the four hours….”Give me fifty bucks.” I paid cash. I shook his hand. And Kevin’s and the guy with the TR-6. And we walked out into the light rain and pointed the Jag due west.

We got home around 5:00, the lights were out on the dash all the way off the Island, across the Long Island Expressway, down the Cross Island, along the Belt, across Staten Island, over the Verrazano, down the Jersey Turnpike, and just before we got on the Delaware Memorial Bridge…the ABS/STABILITY lights came on to welcome me home….

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