I set out yesterday on what I feared was a fool's errand: secure a Texas State Inspection Sticker for our tired old minivan.
Despite her faded red paint and habit of blowing tires, I like our van. She's very practical, proven to be quite reliable (aside from the tire thing) and works perfect for Kara, not having any odd smells or significant air leaks. So even if money weren't the issue that it is, we would be really hard pressed to replace her.
Unfortunately, our van, bless her catalytic converter, has a bit of a smoking problem.
During the Spring Car Fix-up Extravaganza, we had the auto shop see what they could do about the smoke. The tech said this model van had an issue with oil leaking into the cylinders, and that's just the way it is.
We should probably get a second opinion one of these days. Maybe with our next tax refund.
Anyway, the problem seems to have gotten progressively worse, and I feared it would result in a failed emissions test and a repair bill that would wipe out our meager Sea World Summer Trip funds five times over.
So before heading to the inspection shop Saturday (along with half of east Parker County), I said a prayer that the van would pass.
When my turn finally came, they drove our trusty wheels onto the little testbed, hooked up the sensor to the tailpipe, and stepped on the gas.
Thick blue-white smoke poured out. As the speed increased, so did the smoke. People sitting on the bench out front hopped up and came into the shop. My heart sank - there was no way in the heavens or beneath that this van was going to pass the emissions test.
As the test proceeded, the smoke finally began to diminish, as the oil that had seeped into the crankcase burned off. Near the end of the test, the smoke was almost completely gone.
When the test was done, I noticed both techs standing in front of the test computer, shaking their heads and nervously tapping their feet. Something was terribly wrong.
The inspector dude came into the shop and told me he had some bad news. "The computer crashed just as the test was finishing," he said. "We'll have to run it again."
The second time through, there was still smoke. But less - much less. And it disappeared much more quickly this time. And at the end, the inspector dude got into the car and replaced the sticker!
Now, I don't know what the initial test results were - I wasn't brave enough to ask. But the fact that the computer crashed after the first test, there was much less smoke the second time around, and we passed is good enough for me.
I'll happily accept it as the Miracle of the Van.