2020 Hangover

…and not the kind which follows delightful over-indulgence in alcoholic beverages, either.

No, I’m talking about the spiteful year of 2020, which saw us spared only a plague of crotch-eating crickets (no idea how it missed that one), but saw fit to land three quick punches in the face during the last three days of December.

1.) The clothes dryer packed up — heating element just quit, making it about as useful as a stud bull without testicles — it would go through the motions just fine, but no result.  And — stop me if you’ve heard this one before — it happened two months after the manufacturer’s warranty had expired.  However: when I was rummaging around in the papers surrounding its purchase so I’d have the details when I arranged for a service call, lo! there on the invoice was an additional cost for:  ta-daaaa! an extended warranty (which I hardly ever buy but I had this time), and it had over a year still to run.

This didn’t end the problem.  I called Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM, as they call themselves now) to see what they could do, and was directed to their (outsourced) repair company who handled such calls.  After grappling with the poxy automated telephone system — add this bastard thing to my Ten Hates — I discovered that this outfit was only responsible for the warranty on items purchased since 2019, and my purchase from 2017 was handled by yet another company, and no of course they had no idea who that could be.  So I called NFM and politely asked what the fuck they were doing by sending me to the wrong address, so to speak.  To be fair, NFM was as always a delight to deal with:  attentive, sympathetic and helpful, they apologized fulsomely and sent me to the proper company who, of course, had an automated telephone menu which eventually got me the number of a certified repair outlet in my area… whose number was no longer in service.  So I went back to the company’s poxy website — which was designed by the same people who designed the ObamaCare government website — and eventually found a place which promised to send a guy round after the New Year to fix  the dryer.  (To be continued.)

2.) The next day (before New Year’s Eve) was cold and windy, and raining buckets.  So, this being 2020, it came as no surprise when New Wife called plaintively from her school to inform me that Sputum (her Fiat 500, thus named because of its color) was refusing to start.  Lights were working, but engine she no crank.  She and the school maintenance guy had tried to jump-start the thing, but no luck.  Shit.  A new starter motor loomed in our future, $1,200 installed.  So I went over, tried to push-start the car (stick shift, yay) so we could at least get it home or to the shop (did I mention that the day was freezing, wet and windy?) and… no joy.  So maybe not the starter motor, but some chip in the ignition system?  Crap.  Called our car service guys (EuroSport in Plano, blessings be upon them), and they said that while they couldn’t attend to the car until the New Year (natch) because they were closed on New Year’s Eve, they’d organize a tow the next day and at least get Sputum to their shop.

I took New Wife to work on New Year’s Eve (half-day only) and waited for the tow service to arrive.  They did, and took care of the business without any fuss.  I went off and did the pre-NYE grocery shopping, then went back to pick up New Wife.

3.) And lo did the “Check Engine” light come on in the Tiguan — and to be fair to VW, that light only comes on when there’s something quite seriously wrong.  No chance to get the thing checked, of course, because New Year’s Eve.  I crept home nervously, therefore, and New Wife and I faced the prospect of no cars instead of two for the entire long weekend — and we had planned on going out a bit because we both had cabin fever and needed to.

So we spent the entire weekend cooped up in our apartment, snarling at each other.  (Okay, to be fair, she moped and I was doing the snarling, as you might expect.)

The following Monday dawned bright and fair — no rain, no freezing temperatures, this was 2021, wasn’t it? — so I took her to work and set about the business of getting both cars attended to.  Here’s the full report.

Sputum’s battery was dead — stone dead, despite the lights and such working — it was no longer capable of taking a charge.  So one new battery, duly installed, and the Fiat was as good as new.  The mechanic did mention that there were some signs of rodent infestation (nests containing acorns, hence squirrels), and they’d nibbled on some of the wires, but no serious damage.  (I mention this because it will be important later.)  Our apartment complex is quite heavily forested and there are a jillion of the little tree-rats all over the place, but can I shoot them out of the trees with my trusty Baikal pellet gun?  Oh no, because city ordinance #2375-4 para. 48 “No discharge of guns including pellet guns in city limits”.  Anyway, the outcome, Fiat-wise, was not bad especially as I discovered that this was the car’s original, four-year-old battery, so all in all, not a bad outcome.

And now we come to the Tiguan’s warning light.  “Kim, at first glance it looks as though you may be having an issue with the turbo”, a comment which struck fear to my heart (and more especially to my wallet) because a new turbo is over $1,500 and double that for installation.  So I waited with trepidation for the final diagnosis, hoping that maybe it was just the sensor that was at fault (only a few hundred dollars to replace that).

It was neither.  “It looks as though you’ve had some serious rodent infestation, and they’ve chewed the wires connecting the sensor to the turbo.”

Cost of replacing the wire (which, of course, in the modern parlance means a new sensor because it’s a single unit):  $160 plus labor.

So all in all, what had threatened to cost me close to $5,000 to fix both cars in 2020, eventually cost me less than $500 in 2021.

And the clothes dryer was duly attended to — turns out it was the control panel at fault, and not the heating coil or motor — and the fix took less than half an hour.

So life is good, so far in 2021.  But later in the month will come the Presidential Inauguration, whereupon I expect not only socialism but crotch-eating crickets to follow soon thereafter.

You heard it here first.


  1. Two or three plastic mesh bags (e.g grocery onion sacks) and mothballs, wired around the engine compartment, particularly near the wheel wells (they’ll climb the tires for access,) are sovereign specific. Havahart midsize traps, baited with peanut butter, provide a source of low-grade chili and Alamo memorabilia.

  2. IIRC, I heard on the “Car Pro” radio show that you can buy wolf urine. Spray it under the hood and let it dry. Don’t recall if they discussed any lingering odor issues.

  3. I can strongly recommend the Squirrelinator trap, sold at Tractor Supply and other places. It catches multiple squirrels at a time, and I baited it with birdseed.

    I got 3 in one day, and a total of 7 before I stopped using it.

    It’s a live trap, so you can transport them elsewhere. Or at least, outside the city limits to use your pellet gun. I have a fairly quiet pellet pistol that I just used in the back yard.

  4. Sounds like life is giving you some lemons.

    Glad the repairs where not too expensive.

    I have some hav a heart traps just for small rodents. It is easy to catch them. Find a wall and lean a board or some cardboard against the well. put the trap in the tunnel you made. Some peanut butter on the pan helps but that might not be needed.

    I have heard the trap go before I even got back in the house. They love tunnels.

    Dispose of them as you feel the need. My wife would not let me give them lead poisonings so I released them in a park a few miles away. Have to do it ever few years to keep the population down.

    Have great day.

    1. Would she allow you to release them into a river, so they can bathe before leaving the temporary accommodations you gave them? The order of activity is very important. Bathe them first, then open the trap.

  5. Tube traps are pretty good. Smaller than some of the traps mentioned. Can hide under your vehicles if you are worried about someone running off with your traps. Still good for the chili thing.

  6. Glad to hear that 2021 is starting out as just another day in the park, and you’re back to your normal self. And, YES, rodents and car wiring can be a bitch, especially as a tag-team.
    Not finding a new post here at morning sign-in was a bit disconcerting though.

  7. They’re Democrats – they’ll lead off with the crotch crickets, socialism to follow. As for the squirrels, maybe you can put up some owl nesting boxes in the area. The birds might be happy to have a new dining area.

      1. My dad used to shoot vermin by setting up his shooting stand as far as possible away from a sliding glass door to the yard. The shots were 30 feet inside the house and up to 100 feet outside.

        The distances made the sound of the shots quite mild and impossible to accurately locate.

        Plus, the neighbors also hated the vermin.

  8. Squirrel Traps: Use single door traps, not the ones with doors at each end. Put the bait as far back in the trap as you can, not on the pedal, you want them to step on the pedal not eat off of it. The best and most foolproof bait is Reeses Peanut Butter cups. Less messy than spreading peanut butter on hardware and squirrels cannot resist . I did this professionally and never failed to get the little bushy tailed tree rats using the candy. Be careful transporting wildlife to relocate. Most states have laws (Duh!) against relocating without a License (Natch). I’m just sayin for you information.

  9. I saw a delightful meme:

    The big headline says ‘BINGO!’.
    The following newspaper-style headline discusses a forest-fire near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine, and the resulting release of radioactive ash.
    In the accompanying photograph, a nerd stands in front of a giant office lottery-board with blocks of all kinds of bizarre potential 2020 disasters.
    He yells “Who has ‘nuclear forest-fires’ for November?”

    I looked close, but didn’t see “rodents eat your car”.
    And nothing about a “push ‘6’ if you want to connect to ‘3’” contest.

    1. I once got into my car, turned the engine over, and heard a nasty noise coming from the dash. Took a while but I got up inside it and found a mouse had somehow worked its way inside the fan and then spun itself to death when it came on.

      (For most people who probably can’t imagine how that would’ve worked, here’s a picture of said fan, assuming the blog software handles it properly.)


  10. Kim
    Can I bequeath you an OBDII reader? No self respecting yob should be without one nowadays. I am on my 7th VW and do pretty much all my own repairs so it is imperative to have one. The list of things that have failed on VW’s over the years is long and every vehicle seems to choose a different system or part to fail.

    A good generic one is not much money and they turn up at auction constantly for even less $$ (Amazon dumps everything returned to auction houses – they don’t touch the items) – I benefit a lot from this as I can fix the electronics too assuming there is even a problem. Sometimes less honest folks buy the item, use it once, then return it for full refund – Amazon, go figure.

    You could have replaced that sensor yourself, and the diagnostic device would have told you what to go look at. Aftermarket the sensor is likely under 100 bucks.

    Let me know and I will pick up a code reader when one appears for auction – pro bono. Or if you want a lesser device that works with your smart phone, I have 2 or 3 of these bluetooth gadgets laying about.

  11. I second the vote for the mothballs in mesh bags. Otherwise you’ll have to tie the bottom half of your cars in chicken wire every time you park them at home to keep the rodents from dining on your fan belts and heater hoses (no kidding, the Marmots at Mineral King in the Sierra Nevada are famous for munching on the automotive rubber of cars left parked in the trailhead parking lot. When we were there in 1991 my brother parked on chicken wire and tied the sides up past the wheel wells.

  12. I shot hundreds of designer rats with an air rifle in a non-permissive environment and a hostile neighbor to boot. You need some sort of covered firing position. The loudest noise is the thwack when the pellet impacts. Learned a lot about terminal ballistics too. Search doesn’t work on the chin-up of death but it is a thing. In the end though, it was like fighting the Chinese army. They just kept coming. Some weekends I would shoot 6-10. I could tell the difference until about Wednesday then it was business as usual.
    Probably because of the walnut tree.

  13. A few years ago a guy I knew told me his tale of woe regarding his washer:

    It was a little over a year old front-loader. He’d paid, IIRC, in the neighborhood of $2,00 for it. Seems the thing had died mid-wash, door locked, clothes in, but thankfully most water drained. He managed to get the door open so the clothes could be attended to, and since he’d bought the extended warranty he started the process of getting it fixed. Repairman arrives, main mother-board has gone tits-up, he’ll need to get the part. A week later he gets a call, the part is no longer available, he’ll need a new washer. But it’s under extended warranty, for which he paid. Sorry about that, company no longer supplies the part, can’t be fixed. He goes back to the company (now expecting them, since he had the extended warranty and it’s their fault the thing can’t be fixed, oh no). They offer him $600 toward the purchase of a new washer, of the same brand. For a unit that was under two years old and under extended warranty. He eventually accepted it as the best he could do.

    I personally would’ve started Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and every other damned media outlet available in the name of the broken washer, (with close-ups of the brand, which BTW is a popular brand with a two-letter name, both consonants, spelled like “leg” without the “e”) explaining the plight and the paltry remittance offered by the company, along with pictures of its replacement of a different brand. But that’s just me.

    Just this weekend wife and I took delivery of a new washer and dryer (the ones in the house we bought in mid 2019 looked like they were previously installed on Noah’s Ark), and we avoided the brand above.

    1. Actually, my experience with the repair guy was similar, but I didn’t want to make an already-long story even longer. Let’s just say that it took two weeks to finally get the thing fixed.

      1. IIRC it took him almost a month. In a household with two kids under five (i.e. LOTS of laundry to do).

        1. Yeah, it seems like on modern washers, the control panel going out and there being no replacement is a common issue.

          Some tech-inclined people have hand-wired up their own control board replacements but it’s probably not all that easy.

    1. Two problems with using a blowgun on squirrels:
      1/ Takes ages for them to die, even with a good shot. They just wriggle and squeal forever.
      2/ It’s hell to pull a dart out of a tree trunk — little fucker goes in balls-deep, generally.

      Don’t ask me how I know all this.

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