harmonic balance

harmonic balancerI love learning about cars.  I like driving cars. I like going places.

I love learning about cars when it’s on my terms.

The other day my Jeep broke down and I got to learn what a harmonic balancer does.

I’d never had a reason to really understand that part of an engine.

Sometimes, until something is really broken, it’s hard to pay any attention to it.

I listen to my cars like I could fend off disaster if I just pay close enough attention.  Every new squeak and rattle usually means that I need to figure out what’s broken or about to explode.

When the squeak at the front of the engine got louder, and eventually the pulley at the bottom of a whole bunch of pulleys finally came apart and started hitting the fan blades, I knew it was probably time to address the issue.

You don’t want to drive very far if something is making a death rattle against the metal fan blades.

Actually, you don’t want to drive at all.  You can’t drive.  You are dead in the water as far as vehicular locomotion goes.

So I ran the three miles to my house and got a different vehicle, finished the route, and came back to wait for the tow truck to drive it over to the garage that I had do the work.

The next morning, the mechanic started it up to see what was going on with it and the harmonic balancer fell apart in the garage’s parking lot.

It looked like this:

harmonic balancer brokenReally, it looked like that but more “spread out”.

I imagine the mechanic had to crawl under the car to get it.

This is a part that’s supposed to be one piece.

Two stout, round pieces of metal with rubber in-between that absorbs the vibration of the engine so everything doesn’t rattle apart.

When the rubber part fails and the parts start to break away from each other, the one can become two.

That’s a bad thing when a part designed to be one becomes two.

Anyway, long story short…the car is whole again after fixing the harmonic balancer and the water pump that got taken out as collateral damage when it all started to hit the fan.

Like a lot of things, it came on without a whole lot of warning.  Squeaks and rattles, wobbles that shouldn’t be wobbling, things that felt normal until I felt what normal really was after the repair had been done.

It is too easy to draw a spiritual metaphor out of all of this…so maybe I shouldn’t.

But you do have to wonder about things that seem to be all right…until they break.

You do have to wonder about things that are breaking in secret…middles falling apart until you just aren’t whole anymore and need to be fixed.

You have to wonder about a middle that no one can see…encased in a strong veneer and forgotten about….taken for granted until things become desperate and you start hearing the clanking of metal on metal.

I guess that sometimes you just have to wonder about some of these things.


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