powerwasherI am not a mechanic, and never wanted to be. There were years when I used to change the oil and do basic tuneups on my cars, but that was back when engines were less sophisticated and more accessible to non-professionals. I was also a poor young preacher at the time, pinching pennies at every opportunity. I can take my car to the shop these days and say hallelujah that I’m no longer trying to rotate my own tires or replace a belt. Even so, I still tinker occasionally with my lawn mower and power washer, but mainly because you can’t drive those to the shop, and I don’t have a truck.

Divinity school reading days gave me time for some much-needed writing this week, but also a chance to do some work around the house. Susan stripped the wallpaper from our bathroom and did most of the work in repainting it, while I replaced all the towel racks, shower rods, and other accessories with something less shiny and a bit more modern. I played electrician long enough to replace the light fixture (twice, when the first one hung over the mirror). I even pretended to be a plumber while installing a new lavatory faucet and working on a stubborn leak from the tub, which had ruined part of the ceiling below. The last part required the help of a real plumber. The leak is gone, though the hole we cut in the downstairs ceiling remains.

That left the yard work. I put out some grass seed far too late for it to do any good, then set about to power wash the patio and some lawn furniture. I have a nice power washer that Susan gave me a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t start, no matter how hard or often I pulled the cord. I asked two different neighbors for help, with no luck. I checked the spark plug, drained the gas, cleaned out the float bowl, sprayed all of the carburetor I could reach with a solvent, and refilled with fresh gas. No luck. I called my brother who can fix anything and checked the choke. No luck. I could spray starter fluid and get it to turn over a few times, but it wouldn’t catch. It became obvious that something was still preventing gas from getting where it needed to be.

Fearing that the answer would involve taking the carburetor apart — which is above my mechanic’s pay grade — I resorted to Googling the problem, figuring I wasn’t the first to face the issue. In short order I found a handful of YouTube videos made by people who were so proud of fixing their machines that they just had to share how they did it. The first three videos I watched mainly rehashed what I’d already done, but on the next one, I hit pay dirt. I had removed the bolt that holds the float bowl beneath the carburetor earlier, but had not noticed the three tiny holes in it: gas is sucked in through two holes near the bottom, then shot through an itty-bitty channel into the carburetor through a hole in the top. I removed the bowl again, stripped the wire from a twist-tie to use as a probe, and soon discovered a minuscule piece of trash blocking the central tube of the bolt. I cleaned it out, reassembled, and voila! The engine cranked and ran like a charm. I raised both arms in victory and Susan cheered. If I had known how to dab like Cam Newton, I would have dabbed.

I reeked of gas and had several mosquito bites when all was done, but sometimes even small victories can bring a great sense of accomplishment … and the fact that it was too late to actually do any work by that time made it all the better. There will be another sunny day, and both the power washer and lawn mower will crank.

In the meantime, I’ll be far more at home with my laptop and a stack of books.

I’ll smell better, too.

Tony Cartledge

About Tony Cartledge

Tony W. Cartledge is contributing editor of Baptists Today, in addition to teaching Old Testament studies and various ministry courses at Campbell University Divinity School. He formerly served as editor of the Biblical Recorder, newspaper of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and as a pastor for 26 years. Tony is a graduate of the University of Georgia, Southeastern Seminary and Duke University, where he earned a Ph.D. He is the author of several books including the Smyth & Helwys commentary on First and Second Samuel and Telling Stories: Tall Tales and Deep Truths and several Bible study books for Nurturing Faith.