Back in September I wrote about the pesky "service engine soon" light that had been shining on my dashboard for a while. Yesterday, because Kim was off work and could pick me up at the auto repair shop, I took the car in for service. I should have done that six weeks sooner, before my inspection expired, but time got away from me. You know how that goes.
Anyway, the problem was diagnosed as two faulty sensors. Five hours and $400 from the time I dropped the car off, it was repaired and ready to go. Kim drove me back to pick it up, and I went straight from there to the inspection station. It flunked. The mechanic who did the inspection explained that there was most likely nothing wrong with the car, but the repair work had reset all the sensors, and I need to drive the car approximately 150 miles to allow the sensors to collect enough new data to determine if everything is working properly.
I have put fewer than two thousand miles on my car in the last year. I told the inspector that, then rolled my eyes and said, "I guess that means I need to take a little trip."
"Oh, no, that won't work," he replied. "It can't be highway miles. It has to be in-town driving, with lots of starts and stops."
From what I've since learned on the Internet, each model of vehicle has its own specific "drive cycle" pattern that must be followed in order for the sensors to record the necessary amount of information to satisfy the inspector's test equipment. I have thirty days to get this done and pass the inspection test. For the next two or three weeks I'll have to drive around and around town at low speeds on busy streets, repeatedly passing the police station and the sheriff's office and bored motorcycle cops, all the while sporting a giant red sticker on my windshield that just screams, "PULL ME OVER!"
It also occurred to me yesterday to check the expiration date on my driver's license. Good thing I did; it was due to expire on my birthday next week.
After leaving the inspection station, I soldiered on to the DMV, where I carefully parked with the rear, un-red-stickered end of my car facing the building. The drivers license renewal process went smoothly and even fairly quickly, thank goodness. The new photo is ugly, clearly reflecting the deer-caught-in-the-headlights frame of mind I was in, but I don't care about that. At least my license will be up to date when I get pulled over.
I hope those pull-over stops don't mess up the drive-cycle pattern.