Bore and Stroke

Last Saturday I began hauling out the greasy equipment and tools needed for one of my least favorite jobs: the oil change.

I’ve changed a lot of oil in the 20 years that I have owned my own cars and, when completed, the job still gives me that same feeling of satisfaction, like I am somehow bonded with the flesh and steel of the vehicle.

But, beginning an oil change is much like beginning a workout. You know you’ve got to do it and you know you’ll feel a lot better when it’s done, but getting started is such a pain.

Anyway, I was piling up my stuff: the jack, the safety jacks, the wrenches, the oily rags and pans to catch the runoff. I even put together a cardboard mat so as not to sully the hard won look of our filthy driveway.

Isaac was watching me do all this. It amazes me how content my children are to simply sit and stare while work is being done. Hauling tools is not skilled labor, so there’s no reason other than sheer laziness that they couldn’t lend a hand.

On my last trip to the shed Isaac says, with a mischievous look in his eye. “Dad, do you know what the bore and stroke of this engine is?”

With some irritation I said, “Isaac, I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

With a haughty air he enlightened his ignorant old man, “Well the bore is the diameter of the cylinder and the stroke is the travel distance of the piston.”

We had a conversation at that point that is not worth repeating. Suffice it to say that within about five minutes Isaac was wearing his old clothes and was down on his knees with me getting ready to crawl under the car and get a little dirty.

He learned about draining the oil pan and removing the oil filter and then, how much new oil to pour in and at what viscosity. He then learned about checking the fluids in the engine and how important regular maintenance of one’s vehicle can be.

He was a good student and learned many lessons well that day.

It might be my imagination, but it always feels like the car runs more smoothly after an oil change, too. Saturday afternoon it felt like our relationship was running more smoothly too.

And, I can tell you about the bore and stroke of an engine.

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