Car Repair As Relationship CounselingS

(Wes Siler will entertain you every week with stories of being Wes Siler. Warning: may cause random impregnation. — Ed.)

"Does this mean you're going to fix my door lock now?" Asked the girl I've been dating off and on for six months. That might sound like a matter of routine to most of you, but, realizing that I would indeed order the parts and devote an afternoon to the job was a big moment for me. Faced with an inability to effectively communicate in words, I instead track the progress of relationships in units of labor. And this damn X5 has created the strongest sign of commitment yet.

As I understand it, the problem with this 2001 BMW X5 3.0 is fairly common. At some point in its life, a previous owner or mechanic (definitely not an ex, I'm the first that can turn a wrench) pulled off the center console and broke the tab holding the switch in its housing. Now, the switch is no longer able to make contact, meaning you have to put a key in the door and turn it twice to unlock all the doors.

Since I ride in the passenger seat, that's created a few awkward moments where I've been left out in the cold night, looking at the object of my fancy sitting in the warm glow of the dome light, wondering if I'd be let in or not.

I know the problem because I'd spent half a day tracking down and removing the two dozen or so pop studs and screws that retain that console, hoping to find the source of the problem. I figured it might just be a loose wire or some soda residue in need of cleaning, but didn't want to order the part until I was sure it was something I could access.

Post 1990s luxury cars have a way of defying the casual mechanic and I was worried about the potential for empty promises if it turned out I couldn't even get that damn console off without some mega-expensive specialty tool. Non-car folk never seem to understand that manufacturers do everything they can to keep us plebes out of their cars.

That first day of work wasn't a total bust either. With tools out and car in my driveway, I'd taken the opportunity to change the oil, replace some fuses, top up woefully underfilled tires and do one or two other minor little jobs.

To give myself a little piece of mind, I stowed away a can of Fix-a-Flat in the trunk and a little tire gauge in the glovebox. Removed a few hamburger wrappers, stale fries and other grossness left by her ex under the passenger seat too. I slept a little easier after, knowing I wasn't going to miss a call for help during one of my off-the-grid camping trips now. The last thing you want is another man coming to the rescue in your supposed area of expertise.

But, I didn't order that lock switch. At the time, I wasn't confident in my position, creating stress that eventually led to what, later, proved to be a temporary break.

This X5 isn't the first time I've worked on a girl's car. The girl I dated last year drove an old Tiburon that refused to fire for 15 minutes every time you filled it up with gas. The lowest hanging fruit on the long, long list of things in need of repair or replacement were broken off interior door handles. She had to roll down her windows and reach out every time she parked.

Half an hour of Internet research revealed the starting problem was likely caused by a clogged purge valve and that, plus the door handles proved a cheap order from Korea and an easy morning using only the tools that I carry in my pocket every day anyways.

She seemed infinitely impressed that she could start her car at gas stations now, a problem she should really have resolved before I showed up on the scene. Maybe it was that negligence that did it or maybe I just don't belong with the owner of a beater Hyundai, but that one didn't last very long.

Cut to last weekend and there I was checking tire pressures and buying a tank of gas ($89!) before hopping in the X5 to go spend a couple days poolside in Palm Springs. The car completed the trip flawlessly, a feat she wasn't sure it could and which I spent many hours assuring her it would. It felt good to finally be trusted that much.

Going on one of my motorcycles was ruled out by the temperature - 109 degrees just sounded like too much suffering to impose on an already tenuous situation.

We fought out there, of course, scandalizing the hotel staff. Totally down, again, to my inability to effectively vocalize what I mean to say, but made up immediately afterwards and I was reminded what it feels like to wake up next to a girl so beautiful it's hard to believe you're in the right bed.

I think she had fun too. At least that's my takeaway from the request to invest further time and money in the black Bimmer. It felt good not just to be asked, but to know I'd do it too. In fact, it's a job I'm looking forward to. I'll rebuild that whole damn car if I need to now, a thought which makes me blush.