Monday, January 23, 2012

Radio Killed The Radio Star

An inordinate amount of time was spent this past weekend resurrecting the car radio. The radio was brought back from its self induced coma a few years back in about ten minutes over a small glass of decent whiskey.

I must be sixfold more stupid today than I was those few years back.

The battery died then, and the radio has the feature of encoding itself into a secure, non-playing state whenever power is cut off at the source. Its a security feature, the theory being that if the radio were stolen, its power source would be cut off and it would be essentially useless in another vehicle or connected to a power source, resting attractively on a coffee table somewhere. It won't work again until you punch in the right code.

Great in theory but in practice, there are holes. For starters, who knew? I mean, when I fired the car up after having the battery disconnected, the radio gave me a funny numeric code and then said "Safe" on its display.

Yes, I felt safe at the time and presumably so did the radio, but I would have felt safe and entertained had it been playing soothing music as well.

So unless you hang a sign in the window warning potential crooks that you're going to need a code to re-set this thing, and they bother to read it, you're still going to come back to a busted window and a hole in the dash through which the wind can be called "Mariah."

Of course, the thief might return said purloined radio to you with a note:

"By golly, you got me. No code, you smart fellow you. Guess you win this round."


Peter R. Pertrapor

So I poked and prodded the thing but to no avail. Then once home whipped out the owner's manual to have thing tell me about the secret code. The code was of course printed on the back of the code card which I was advised to tuck in a safe place outside of the vehicle. I of course followed that advice, twelve years ago when I bought the car. Now, three houses, four wallets, sixteen dozen safe places later the owner's manual might as well read:

"The radio code is printed on the back of the radio card. Ensure that this card is not in the vehicle. Take it out of the vehicle, set it on fire and hide its ashes in bits across three non-contiguous states. Learn to hum or whistle."

The code was reprinted on a new vehicle checklist that was filled out before I took posession of the car. I had the list because it was the first thing I snatched from the dealer and stuffed into the nether recesses of the glove compartment, greedily wanting the bill of sale and keys instead. The checklist noted that a pre-delivery inspection had been performed and that the battery was properly charged, the doorlocks worked and the tires were correctly inflated. When I found it last weekend I noted that "brake rotors in round and balanced" wasn't checked so admittedly the first time I braked at speed, I should have expected the car to do a conga dance across three lanes.

Now having the checklist and the code, I went right back to the radio and punched the code in, dutifully transposing the first two digits in a fit of numeric dyslexia that from time to time grips me, resulting in awkward apologies to wrong numbers on the phone and stops at a massage parlor instead of the the optometrist I thought I punched into the GPS. Unfazed, the radio promptly shut me down and locked me out from re-entering the code again.

Neener neener neener.

This aloof behavior was not detailed in the owner's manual. Rather I found out on the web that after two errant attempts, one was obliged to wait an hour after which all would be re-set and you could try again without prior penalty.

Don't you wish marriages were like that?

Telling the story to a friend this morning, he commented that perhaps I should not disconnect the battery. Not practical, said I, as I need a power source for the weekend squirrel executions.

Truth be told, we disconnected the battery in order to re-set the engine computer. To get the "check engine" light to go off, we replaced manifold bypass hoses, installed a new PCV valve twice, replaced the OXS and finally put in a new manifold aspirator. But the thing kept faulting so we cut the battery, lit a few candles and chanted "forget, forget" over the transaxle for an hour.

Seems to have worked.

On leased vehicles with mileage caps, I might try it again. Or re-connect the poles backwards so the odometer reverses when you drive.

But seriously, when it finally occurred to me to key in the code such that the radio display matched the radio code I wondered how addle-brained I had become since I last swapped out the battery? Am I that dumber? Or can I attribute it to the season and the lack of visual and olfactory stimulus that comes with January? If everything's grey and smells vaguely of wet raincoats, is it a wonder that the difference between sleep and ten o'clock at the office is that the coffee has lumps?

Nah. Nice try. I'm stupider.

Bunny on.


Blogger Johnny C. said...

I had a '92 Volvo that would do the same thing. I went on a road trip the first week I owned it without having a radio. It was kind of terrible/amazing.

My friend and I got tired of conversation about the fifth hour and just started shouting random words in different accents. We weren't drunk and I'm not sure why I'm telling you this.

Let me know what weekend you're coming over to help me fix my windshield wiper. 12-pack is on me.

11:03 AM  
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