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In Which Embattled Manhood Rassles a Carburetor, and Is Discomfited
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In times of desperation, such as being medically sidelined, columnists resort to the shameless practice of republishing old titles. It is embarrassing. But I am doing it.

The abyss is everywhere, the unknown chasm that lies beyond the world we think we understand. Especially in carburetors.The other day I went to the back yard to change the main jet on the carburetor that engages in respiration for my ’67 Dodge. It is a simple device, having none of the incomprehensible swirls of anti-pollutional hoses that festoon modern machines like malign linguini. Changing the jet is a simple matter of unscrewing one sorry little metal doughnut and replacing it with another. All you need is a screwdriver, long skinny fingers, four arms, and an ability to see through sheet metal.

Okay. I advanced on the old bucket with a box of tools and a Soldier of Fortune T-shirt: modern American manhood at its clear-eyed, technically adept finest. I scowled. I endeavored to look masterful. No office-serf like me can do anything practical without (a) a sense of wonder that it actually worked and (b) a giddy exultation at his prowess. Whenever I successfully repack the wheel bearings, I have an urge to put my foot on a log, beat my chest, and utter a long quavering shriek. Unfortunately the neighbors, jealous types, would send for a struggle buggy and a couple of big orderlies.

The hood went uay. Say “Ahhh.” I am the equal of anybody in my mastery of hoods. The float bowl came off easily. Anything mechanical comes apart easily, often leaping spontaneously into more parts than you knew it had. The Second Law of Thermodynamics, which insists that the universe tends to disorder with devilish single-mindedness, was no doubt discovered by a physicist working on his carburetor.

The old jet came out easily. The new one screwed in simply…well, almost simply, if only my fingers would fit behind the float, but there was no serious problem. I’d just take a long screwdriver, hold the jet balanced with the tip, turn it slowly…. Actually, there was no great difficulty at all. I merely put my foot on the battery for balance, holding a small flashlight in my mouth to shine into the carburetor, held the float with one hand and guided the jet with the other. Easy. Unfortunately it didn’t leave a hand to hold the screwdriver. The solution was really quite simple. All I had to do was….

After 45 minutes, my wife came out. She is by profession a harpsichordist and has the eye-hand coordination to disassemble a watch while bouncing on a trampoline. She does not, however, understand masterfulness. She tried to insert the jet a few times.

“This is ridiculous. Are you sure this is the right part?”

It was the wrong question to ask of embattled prowess.

My father came out to try. He had been skulking about, waiting for me to fail entirely so that he would be more impressive when he succeeded. He assumed a masterful expression and had at the vile device with the deft touch of a trained surgeon.


“What?” I asked.

“I dropped it.”

A principle of automotive mechanics is that all parts smaller than a tire look exactly like gravel. I put the patient jalopy in neutral and we pushed it back a yard to look beneath it. We got down on our knees and began peering at the driveway trying to convey by a sort of panicked casualness that we were in command of the situation. Nothing. I began throwing gravel piece by piece into the woods on the theory that whatever remained would have to be the jet.

Judging by the sun, we had about three hours of daylight left.

Having found the thing at last, my father impaled in by its slot on an outsize screwdriver and began poking it at the carburetor like a dirk. He certainly looked masterful. I imagined him as a sort of latter-day D’Artagnan crossing swords with the enemies of the Crown, and leaving them with carburetor jets screwed into their breasts.

“Is it working?” I asked.

“Nothing to it. Used this trick for years, putting number-10 screws into junction boxes. Damn!”

We rolled the car back again and began searching for the jet. Five minutes later we did it again. My father looked down the driveway with a masterful expression that was beginning to be tinged with realism. “I calculate we’ve got about 600 more feet of driveway,” he said.

Automotive repair breaks into two phases-the first, in which the mechanic wants to fix the device, and the second, in which he wants to kill it. The difference between an obstacle and an enemy is about an hour and a half. Rage builds. It begins as a sort of interior itch accompanied by a desire to flex the large muscles. Then the fingers begin to curl uncontrollably. They are wondering what part of a carburetor might be the neck. Yet you still have to work delicately, precisely, or else call a mechanic. We tried.


(Republished from Fred on Everything by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Feminism 
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  1. Hate to brag, old chap, but a ’67 Dodge means a Carter carb. You take off the entire top of the carb assembly — 6 screws. Lift it straight up, move it flat, and balance it on a (full) beer can sitting on the passenger-side fender. Take a rag, ball it up, use it to absorb all the fuel in the float bowl. Unscrew the old jet, grab it with needlenose pliers, throw it in the general direction of the mailbox. Drop the new jet in the bowl so it won’t get away. Poke it and stick it with a #2 screwdriver. Mosey it over to the port, screw it in tight. Carefully! re-position the top of the carb assembly — do NOT bend the float tab. Replace six screws.


    • Replies: @Macon Richardson
    , @Excal
  2. @Steve Gittelson

    Yes! Mechanics make better mechanics than do old soldiers of fortune.

    • Replies: @Steve Gittelson
  3. I do have to get me a log.

  4. You should try replacing the factory spark plugs on a 2006 Ford Triton engine.

    It will make you dream of anonymously addressed pipe bombs.

  5. @MEH 0910

    I opened the hood of my ’67 Coronet last week and found that a squirrel had spent the winter in the air filter. Fortunately the actual “air filter” has wire mesh, so they didn’t get into the carter.

  6. @Macon Richardson

    Someone is bound to show up and take me to task for not disconnecting the choke link before taking off the top.

    In actual practice, you bought a carb kit, unscrewed the top screws, tipped up the top toward the choke-side, secured it to the hood above with a piece of baling wire, replaced BOTH jets and the idle and mixture screws, jiggled the choke linkage to check the diaphragm for pinholes, then decided if it was worth the effort to scrape the top gasket off and replace it. Maybe, maybe the float was bad (a line of discoloration around the float base), but almost never within 60,000 miles.

    Otherwise, a judicious application of Form-A-Gasket, put the top back on, test. Bill four hours labor and $27.50 for the carb-kit.

    • Replies: @bluedog
  7. dave337 says:

    It gets much easier to do after you’ve already done it.

  8. You did not indicate what problem caused you to think you needed to change the jet on your carburetor. Jets do not wear out but they do become clogged very easily if old or dirty gasoline is sucked in to the carburetor. Compressed air sometimes does the trick or a fine piece of wire thin enough to thread though the jet. I realize you probably no longer have the ’67 Dodge but there may be similar vehicles in Mexico having similar problems and you could be an expert.

    • Replies: @NoseytheDuke
  9. @Simply Simon

    There’s a product called Motor Purr, made in Texas, that is incredible at solving a wide range of problems with either the fuel system, motor (freeing gummed rings, blocked oil channels, dirty valve seats etc) and even helping a transmission to work again. All this depending on how and where you added it. They also made a product that “fixed” cracked cylinder heads with remarkable success.

    The last I heard was that the company that makes it was likely to be sold due to the death of the owner.

  10. You forgot the drop cloth to put under the engine and the extension magnet to grab the dropped parts.

  11. Fred, your old man forgot the rest of the big screwdriver trick. First you crazy glue the jet to the screwdriver, then you get it seated and squirt the crazy glue dissolver in there to release the screwdriver.

    All you have to do then is figure out how to clean the crazy glue out of the new jet, but other than that, it’s a good trick.

  12. Fixating on carbs might be your problem, Fred.

    Are you getting enough fiber?

  13. Excal says:
    @Steve Gittelson

    Show-off! That’s not mechanicry — that’s poetry.

    (Why do you waste that talent here?)

    • Replies: @Steve Gittelson
  14. @Excal

    Show-off! That’s not mechanicry — that’s poetry.

    I suppose it wouldn’t be the first bit of poetry inspired by a car that wouldn’t start.

  15. bluedog says:
    @Steve Gittelson

    Lol the driver of a race car my father-in-law sponsered did the same using form-a-gaske,t and then wondered why it didn’t run so good,three hrs later after the father-in-law took the carb. apart to get out all the form-a-gasket it was running again…

    • Replies: @Steve Gittelson
  16. @bluedog

    Lol the driver of a race car my father-in-law sponsered did the same using form-a-gaske,t and then wondered why it didn’t run so good,three hrs later after the father-in-law took the carb. apart to get out all the form-a-gasket it was running again…

    Gracious me. You were so unsure of anything carburetorish that you had to make your anecdote third-person twice removed — all the way to “father-in-law”.

    Learn a little bit more before you tell stories.

    Here’s a question: What kind of Form-A-Gasket did this fictitious “driver” use?

  17. bluedog says:

    Well he wasen’t fictitious he just didn’t stop to think that form-a-gasket and gasoline don’t mix,has a habit of plugging up the jets you know,you did know that did you not, but of course you did anyone who tries to come across as somewhat of an intelligent person like you would know that for sure,lol well maybe not…..

    • Replies: @Steve Gittelson
  18. @bluedog

    The Form-A-Gasket “Ah put the entire carburetor together widdit” fable has been around for a long, long time. I think I heard that one, first time, back in ’70.

    It is available formulated as a hi-temp, non-soluble in gasoline product. In general, a drop of two of Permatex to seal a torn top-gasket for a carb is a mighty handy product.

    Not that you would know, you fucking ignorant jackass.

    • LOL: bluedog
    • Replies: @bluedog
  19. bluedog says:
    @Steve Gittelson

    What a total ass did your mother by the way have any children that lived or were they all retards….

    • Replies: @Steve Gittelson
  20. @bluedog

    What a total ass did your mother by the way have any children that lived or were they all retards….

    I have no mother. My species reproduces by fission.

    Now that your motive has been made crystal-clear, you go on the Ignore List. Have a happy forever after, Bluedung.

  21. While I enjoyed the article immensely, I am going to interpret this as an evil omen that a bit of automotive repair is in my future.


  22. anonymous[179] • Disclaimer says:

    You have a mother, but she would never admit to it.

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