My wonderful 2000 Mazda Protegé, named Jake, is one of my favoritest possessions. He’s easy and fun to drive, reliable, and, if he doesn’t look so pretty anymore, he still looks good enough to get the job done.
As he nears 90,000 miles, it’s obvious that he’s not quite what he was in his younger days. A few more dents and scrapes, creaks and groans, and one of the bulbs in the dashboard blew out, so I can’t see the tachometer quite so well at night. But still, it was disappointing to me that he really seemed to be driving worse the last few months. Noticably less gas mileage (averaging around 27, instead of the 30 he’s been getting since the day I brought him home), and definitely lagging when it came time to accelerate, especially if I was a gear or two too high for the conditions.
As part of the aforementioned 90,000 mile servicing, I changed out his spark plugs on Sunday. One of them was worn a little funny – the black electrode had not worn evenly, as on the other 3, but instead a bit angled, maybe 20 or 30 degrees from normal. Definitely noticeable. Something to be vaguely concerned about, according to my dad, but maybe not requiring anything more than changing the plugs every 20,000 miles instead of every 30.
Anyhow, I don’t know if it was specifically that plug, or just the fact that I put in 4 brand-spanking new high quality plugs, but the difference is amazing! Jake is, all of a sudden, a joy to drive again; quick, responsive, and full of pep. Too soon to say if the mileage is back up to snuff, but I’m guessing it will be. Until it was gone, I hadn’t noticed the vague pall that had gathered over me when I drove, because I always felt like my car just wasn’t quite what I was used to, and it bothered me. But now that it’s lifted, I really am happy to have my car back.
And so, just a quick reminder that, sometimes, the very simple things in life, like 30 dollars’ worth of ceramic and steel and iridium, can bring you the most joy. And sometimes, when it seems like big things are going wrong, a very small change can have big positive effects…