Sunday, June 23, 2013

Thank you, Internet

I hate cars.

Or perhaps it is more accurate to say I have a love-hate relationship with cars. Unless you live in a large metropolitan area—and I don’t—it is all but impossible to live without a car. The freedom and sense of autonomy they provide can be fun, and in the United States there is so much automotive lore that these machines are an expression of our American ethos. Cars are associated with road trips, drive-in movies, double dates, and many other coming-of-age episodes. Although the auto industry is no longer the economy’s most important sector, cars are still an essential part of American life, and despite my ambivalence about these beasts, I often find myself enjoying the experience of tooling around the roads.

But cars are both dangerous and temperamental. I have had a couple of serious accidents in my driving career, and each has rocked me off my hinges in a way few experiences in life can. In addition, until they break down, we are often unaware of how dependent upon our cars we have become. This is a story of a breakdown with a happy ending.

Yesterday afternoon I was expecting a friend to visit and had gone out to the store to get some supplies. It was a beautiful summer day, and I opened the windows and the sunroof of my 2001 Volvo wagon, enjoying a nice breeze and some tunes on the radio. All went well, and I arrived back home about an hour before my guest was to arrive.

But then trouble.

The sun roof would not close. The car windows closed fine. Other things seemed to be working, but I could not get the sunroof to close. This is the point at which I was reminded that I hate cars.

I pulled the manual out of the glove box and started to read. The obvious hypothesis was a blown fuse, so I started to research this possibility with no luck. Of the more than 40 fuses related just to the inside of the car, none of the ones that might be responsible were blown. All looked fine, and replacing them with the spares provided with the car had no effect. Meanwhile, the time before my guest was to arrive was now reduced to 40 minutes, and the front seat area of my car was exposed to the elements. The weather was perfectly fine at the moment, but this is New England. A storm can appear in a five minutes.

Eventually I gave up and went into the house to prepare for my guest. I was resigned to dealing with this problem much later: after the evening’s activities were over (by which time it would be dark) or perhaps even the following day. Which, of course, would be a Sunday when no professional assistance would be available. But when I got in the house, I took one last step before giving up. I googled.

The search phrase “Volvo sunroof won’t close” directed me to a number of discussion boards where motorists ask questions about their cars and kind people with time on their hands provided suggestions. There were a number of false leads, but I came across one really odd sounding suggestion: “You could try locking/unlocking three times in a row with the remote keyless entry device to reset the ceiling light panel.”

This idea sounded crazy, but the ceiling light panel is were the switch to the sunroof is mounted, and I was desperate. So I ran back out to the car pressed the remote button three times and—presto!—the sunroof worked! It closed, and I may never open it again.

Google to the rescue. There is nothing in the Volvo user manual about resetting the ceiling light panel with the magic remote switch, but the crowdsourced experts of the internet knew the trick. And I am so grateful. A ruined weekend was averted by a simple google search. Thank you, internet.