Things break
by Rick Watson
Jul 13, 2014 | 1155 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rick Watson
Rick Watson
How is it that machines instinctively know the absolute worse time to break down? I think they have a type of mechanical intelligence that we humans can’t comprehend.

We have out-of-town company coming tomorrow, and our air conditioner decided to take vacation.

On Monday morning, I was in the yard tending to our new baby chicks when I heard something that was a cross between a howl and a moan.

Stopping in my tracks, my sonic radar zeroed in on the source. It was the outside fan of the air conditioner.

I stepped over to wiggle it. Of course wiggling stuff rarely works, but I do it every time something breaks. It’s like earlier in the week when I plunked down on the seat of the riding lawnmower. I turned the switch and discovered the battery was as dead as a doorknob. I’ve never actually seen a dead doorknob, but I digress. I wiggled the keys and tried to crank the beast again. Nada.

After wiggling the fan, it looked fine, but for good measure, I dusted off a mechanic’s trick my dad taught me, which was to spray a little WD-40 on whatever’s broke.

That usually doesn’t help in situations like this either, but I still squirted a little juice on the fan shaft and wiggled it again just to show I meant business.

The morning sun was roasting the metal roof, so I stood there for a while until the unit kicked back on. The fan sprang to life, and I felt a smug sense of satisfaction as I went about my chicken chores.

Later that evening, I was concentrating on some writing and noticed the house felt a little warm.

The treatments Jilda takes have changed her internal thermometer, and she gets cold easily, so we don’t keep the house as cool as we once did.

But a closer inspection of the thermostat revealed it was set on 75, but the actual temp showing on the device was 78 degrees.

I was temped to spray a little WD-40 on it, but deep in my gut, I knew the culprit was elsewhere.

Once outside, I could hear the unit buzzing like a swarm of hornets, but the fan wasn’t turning.

I poked a thin stick between the fan-guard spokes and gave the fan a nudge, and it started begrudgingly, but it didn’t turn fast enough for the unit to kick on and cool the house.

My mind ticked through all the steps it would take to get a replacement fan, and when I looked at my watch, I realized I wouldn’t have enough time before the parts store closed.

So, we slept fretfully with a box fan blowing warm air through the bedroom.

The next morning I swilled a few cups of java and headed to town in a borrowed car ... yes my truck died too, but that’s another story.

The new fan and starting capacitor were pricey, but thank goodness, I’d wiggled enough stuff through the years to learn how to replace an air conditioner fan.

Before the sun began scorching the roof, the air conditioner was making the inside of our house as cool as a glacier.

I’m just hoping our water heater doesn’t get in on the act.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Happens is available on You can contact him via email: