Monday, May 12, 2008

The Legacy of the Block of Wood in my Car Door

"I'm sure someone my landlady knows has a table saw..."

Or at least something similar to the above statement is how the "fixing the car window" adventure of last summer began. The breaking of the car window occurred earlier that afternoon, when my officemate put down the rear right window on our way to lunch. As usual, the window hadn't worked well for a few months and I had put tape over the window switch to keep passengers from putting it down. By "hadn't worked well" I mean that you could put it down, but it would take at least a day or two until the motor would agree that the window should be allowed to go back up.

Of course it was entirely my fault that it happened: I didn't warn her not to put the window down, and when the problem had last happened I hadn't unplugged the switch from the window so that no amount of pushing the button would make it go down.

On the way back from lunch we stopped at 2 gas stations to get some WD-40 to try to lubricate the motor (the first gas station had NOTHING useful, and the second one only had a "WD-40 pen"). Richland apparently doesn't believe in these sorts of products.

We then worked on the window in our building's parking lot. I'm sure multiple people looked out their windows at some point and wondered what the heck we were doing taking a car door apart, but no one bothered us (hmm... is it a problem that no one cared about suspicious/odd behavior in the middle of a government lab's land?). We tried again later at my officemate's house.

Unfortunately, our efforts failed completely. Not to be out-smarted by a door, we came up with a plan: prop up the window with something. Our something became a piece of wood, but we needed a saw (and some wood). I bought some scrap wood for about a dollar at the home improvement store, and my officemate talked to the lady she was staying with about who she knew that might have a saw. Turns out someone just down the road did, so we went there after I returned with wood.

Well, the man down the street with a saw didn't like the block of wood I bought as it was a bit too big and needed to be cut (but a bit too big I mean about 5 times too wide). Luckily he had some other scraps and quickly cut them to size for me, along with a notch at the top to hold the window in place. We needed two separate pieces to be able to get it in the door, so I held the window up while he screwed them together. We then zip-tied the wood to the metal rod in the door. To put the inside of the door back on we had to trim the Styrofoam blocks attacked to it to fit around the wood.

This was supposed to be a temporary fix, since it was near the end of the summer and I would soon be driving across country to get back to New England. Well, until this morning the block of wood was still there, working every day and night to keep my window appearing to be normal.

About a month ago the window started to noticeably move down, such that a small opening appeared at the top of it. I opened up the door to check on my trusty block of wood. It was moldy! How gross. I assume the mold was eating up the wood enough to make it shrink or shift at the bottom of the door. Not having much time and a headache, I closed it all back up.

Today it was still relatively chilly in the morning, so I thought I'd see if I could get the motor to work. It has been finicky since around the time I bought the car (5 years ago...), so there is always a 50/50 chance on whether or not it will work on any given day. Amazingly, after plugging it back in the actual window support moved up when I tried the switch! Thus began about 20 minutes of taking out the moldy wood (with gloves) and putting the window back on its originally intended support. Another try, and window moved all the way up!

This time I unplugged the switch from the motor so that no one can put the window down. I left the tape on to help remind people not to bother trying, but at least now no one will erroneously feel bad about putting down the window.

You may want to ask why I just don't take it to a repair shop to get it fixed; well, I did that about 4 years ago when it first became a big problem, and about 6 months later it broke again. So I'd rather not waste my money.

1 comment:

Nina said...

Ah, yes. I think I vaguely recall this event. Moldy wood? Lovely. I'm sorry you had to spend a day cleaning up moldy wood, but I am really glad you have a window that should stay up pretty reliably now.