The tell-tale dashboard light

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Column by Jim Clark

By Jim Clark

Modern technology is wonderful, except when it scares the heck out of you.

This week I was filling in at our Williston newspaper, my former home paper, in between getting the South Marion Citizen material put together.

That meant extra traveling. My car is only nine months old, so I wasn't worried about driving between the two offices, providing I could avoid the West Port High and Williston Elementary school zones.

So after being in the Ocala office a while Monday morning, I headed up for Williston. As I pulled out on to State Road 200, I noticed a light on my dashboard that hadn't been there before. It was a little symbol which almost looked like an upside-down headset with an exclamation point in the middle.

Have you ever been driving along at a pretty good clip and all of a sudden the sound of your engine changes? You know the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach? That's how I suddenly felt.

Any problem with my car would be made worse by the fact that my wife was in Michigan visiting her mother until Thursday. So I had no backup.

I decided to take a chance and head up the road. Everything seemed to be running smoothly, including the radio, which at that point I thought had a problem.

It wasn't the first time I had an encounter with a light. Earlier this year I was driving and suddenly a light came on that said “MAINT REQ'D.” Even with my limited knowledge of cars, I knew that meant it needed maintenance.

So I worried until I got to the dealer. Then I found out that “MAINT REQ'D” and “CHECK ENGINE” are not the same thing. It turns out that the vehicle is programmed to tell you to get maintenance performed at the 5,000-mile mark. When you go for servicing, the crew can reset the light so it doesn't come on for another 5,000 miles. I breathed a sigh of relief as I had the regular checkup, which was free because of the service plan I had.

But back to this week. When I arrived in Williston, I took the book inside with me so I could see what the light meant. Now if you know Williston, you know there aren't many auto dealers, so I would have to make it back to Ocala.

I looked in the book, and it told me it was a tire pressure warning.

That really set me at ease. Since I carry one of those pumps you can plug into the cigarette lighter or power supply, I knew I would be OK.

When I left the office, the light came on but I wasn't worried. I had eyeballed the tires (not very scientific, I know) and they all looked all right. So I left, went up Main Street and turned right on Noble Avenue. I got to the railroad, which is as bumpy as ever, and guess what – the light went out.

So here I am, in my car with the warning light no longer speaking to me, able to drive back and forth to both offices. I don't know why the light came on in the first place. Who knows, maybe the pressure got to it.

Jim Clark is the editor of the South Marion Citizen. He can be reached at 352-854-3986 or at editor@smcitizen.com.