Reawakening Manners and Morality in Men

Troubleshooting a Car That Refuses to Start


Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Nick LaPrell from who is doing a series of posts for Godly Gentleman on the basics of vehicle maintenance.

Here is a scenario that has played out in virtually all men’s lives: You’re running late for work, you get into the car, turn the key… And nothing happens. Or even worse, you get out of a movie with your date, ready to go for coffee, you turn the key and. ErrrRRrrrRrrrRrrrrrr. You can’t just call AAA, you have to at least pop the hood and move a few things around. But it is all so foreign (figuratively AND literally). Maybe tighten a wire? There are so many. Perhaps you can check the oil, get a little grease on your hands, and convince your girl that you tried all of the reasonable options before breaking down and calling a tow truck.

Sometimes hiring a mechanic is going to be unavoidable. Other times, hiring a mechanic means paying for a tow, diagnostic, labor, and overpriced parts for a job that might have taken as little as 5 minutes. Knowing how to assess the problem yourself might not keep your car out of the shop, but it will keep you from being taken advantage of or over paying for simple work.

One of the more common car problems is a failure for the engine to start. There are probably near a hundred reasons a vehicle won’t start, but only a handful are common, so we’ll focus on those. As with any car trouble, see if there is an engine code first. If the check engine light is on, rent an ODBII diagnostic device from your local parts store and run a Google search on the make and model of your vehicle along with any codes it throws. This can save a great deal of time troubleshooting the issue and bring up some good articles on the Internet about how to proceed. If you are a techno geek, you can get a cheap blue tooth adapter that connects to your OBDII port and lets your Android or iPhone device read and clear trouble codes (yes, this is on my shopping list).

If there is no code, or you are unable to check for it, there are several other things you can check manually. Be sure to pick up a repair manual for your vehicle from the local shop. They run about $25 and are well worth it. This will come in handy for specific test procedures and component locations. All cars have three key systems to get the engine going. Each system should be tested in order:

Starting System

The starting circuitry of your car may be advanced, but thankfully, it is a rare occasion that faulty wires keep your car from starting. A failure of the starting system typically manifests as nothing happening when you turn the key, or often a clicking sound. First most common cause is a dead battery. Did you leave your lights on? Is the battery more than three years old (two years out here in the Arizona heat)?

The first thing to try in this scenario is to jump start the car. Always keep a set of jumper cables with you for a quick resolution, or use a jump start kit if you have 20 – 30 minutes to wait. Follow the instructions included with either and try to start your car.

If this fails, the fix will not be quick, but may still be easy. Disconnect the battery and bring it in to an automotive shop for testing. If it is dead, but still holds a charge after re-charging, your alternator may be bad. If the car starts again with the new charged battery, drive the vehicle into the automotive store and have them test the charging system (this is usually free). If the car still does not start, the most likely cause is the starter or starter solenoid (they usually come together as a single unit). This can be removed and also tested for free before you commit to buying a new one.


The next think the engine needs to run is a spark to ignite the fuel vapors. The quickest way to test this is by removing the closest spark plug, plug it into the wire, touch the plug to the engine block, and have someone try to start the car. If you see a nice bright blue spark, the system is fine. If not, remove the spark plug from the wire, hold the wire about シ inch from the engine block and try to start it. If you now see a spark, the spark plugs are worn or dirty and need to be cleaned or replaced.

If you still get no spark, you will need to work your way down the system. Open up the distributor cap (usually just a couple of screws or clamps) right where all of the spark plug wires connect. If there is any moisture, dry it out (and buy a new distributor cap). If all looks well, the next suspect is the ignition coil. This can be tested with a cheap ohmmeter as indicated in your repair manual and is easier than it sounds.

Fuel The final component to make the engine go is fuel. Relieve any fuel pressure as instructed in your repair manual and connect a fuel pressure gage (about $30 at the parts store) where the fuel line goes into the engine. This will usually be a thick line that comes from under the car and not the lighter weight hose that comes out of engine at the fuel rail and into other parts (this is the fuel vapor line). When you turn the key into the accessory position, the fuel should pressurize and register on the gage. Attempt to start the engine. The gage should register anywhere between 30 and 50 psi. If not, fuel is not making it into the engine. An alternative method is to pull the fuel hose and place it in a jar while someone attempts to start the car for about 1 second. This is risky as the fuel should come out pretty fast. Use caution and eye protection and be sure to have a proper fire extinguisher handy if you try it.

At this point, you want to hope it is a much cheaper electrical problem. Open up the fuse/relay box (usually near the battery). The relays should be labeled. You are most interested in the one marked as the fuel pump relay and the ASD (automatic Shut Down). If either of these are bad, you will get no fuel pressure. You can test them with an ohmmeter as instructed in your manual. If you have other relays with the same serial number on them, try swapping them out. (For example, if you know the horn is working and it has the same number, switch it with the ADS and/or fuel pump relay and see if the car starts).

If fuel is still not making it to the engine, either the fuel filter is clogged, or the fuel pump is not working right. The fuel filter is MUCH cheaper than the pump, but both are equally difficult to reach in most new vehicles, requiring the gas tank to be lowered or removed. If you feel up to it, try the fuel filter first (about $10 – $30) and the fuel pump next (around $250). Always replace the fuel filter when replacing the fuel pump. For my 99 Dodge minivan, it took about 3 hours on my own. Getting the gas tank back is a lot easier if you have help. You should also drain the tank first with a siphon from an automotive shop (for the purposes of this article, a tube and your mouth are NOT considered a siphon).

In Summary

Hopefully your diagnosis was done several paragraphs back, but if not, now is the time to call in a mechanic. There are several other less common problems that can cause the engine not to start, and a mechanic will be better able to figure it out quickly. If you need to have your vehicle towed, check your local shops for discounts that you may get for having them do the repair work. If you don’t have a mechanic, ask for referrals from friends.

Remember that your time is valuable too. Some repairs become cost ineffective when you factor in the amount of time you are spending doing the diagnosis and work. You can save a great deal of money doing your own work, but some jobs are best left to the professionals.

A Gentleman’s Guide to E-Mail

For many men, email is a daily part of life, both at work and at home.  Some men take their email with them everywhere they go on smart phones, and are literally able to send emails at a moments notice, anywhere, at any time, about anything.  While most men revel in the swiftness that these communications can take place, there are certain challenges in using email as a primary means of communication.  What distinguishes the gentleman from the ordinary man is his ability to retain all social graces in his swift communications.Confidential?
Whenever you send an email, be careful with what you say, even more careful that if you had written a note by hand.  Any thought, sentiment, feeling, idea, or whatever else you sent in confidence can be all too easily forwarded to dozens, or even hundreds, of people.  Before hitting the send button, reread your email and make necessary edits.  Be sure that the recipient will know precisely what you are saying, and the tone with which you are saying it.


Since email lacks the non-verbal subtleties of a face to face conversation, emails must be carefully constructed to convey the proper emotion.  Sarcasm, for example, is often lost in emails.


While emotion does not convey well in an email, drunkenness, anger, and irrationalityconvey very well, and not in a good way.  Before sitting down to write an email, you must be calm, articulate, and absolutely sober.  Never type an email while in any other state.  You angry drunken ranting lunacy will be forwarded to everybody.  Your follow up apology email the next day will not be.  If you are writing an angry email, let it sit in your draft box for a day, then re-evaluate it.  This will give you a chance to re-read, re-think, re-write, or just simply delete it as necessary.


While some people respond to all emails within mere seconds of receiving them, this is not necessary.  You do not need to be available at a moments notice in most of life’s occupations and situations.  Do not answer emails in the middle of conversations, private dinners, movies, important meetings, or anywhere else where you know that your attention is requested and required at the task at hand.  No email is ever important enough to be received or replied to while in a moving vehicle, especially if you are the driver.  Likewise, do not expect instantaneous responses from people via email.

Subject Line

The subject line should be as informative as it is brief.  A simple phrase or short sentence is all that is required.  The subject line is akin to a thesis statement, only shorter.


Personal emails should always begin with “Dear Crystal,” rather than “Hi Crystal,” or simply “Crystal,” or “Hey.”  Business emails may be less formal, but the recipients should still be addressed by name.  All emails should contain some form of greeting, instead of diving right into the meat of the text.


Every email you send should end with a closing, so there is no doubt that the bottom of the email has been reached.  The greeting can be as formal as a “Sincerely, Christian” or as informal as an XOXOXO exchanged between lovers, but there should be a closure.  In business settings, a simple “Thank You” will suffice in most situations.


Using multiple exclamation points or all capitol letters are the internet age equivalent of screaming at the top of your lungs.  You should not, under any circumstances, scream at another human being, even via email.


Use the “Reply To All” button sparingly, if at all.  Invariably, whenever the company sends out a mass email reminding everybody to get their TPS Reports in on time, one idiot will reply to all 5000 employees that he in fact got his done on Tuesday.   The only time to use reply all is if you are responding with vital information that everybody on the list needs to know.  Do not carry on a conversation via email using the “reply all” button.


Proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling should beused at all times.  Do not rely on your spell checker.  There are too many words that will auto correct incorrectly.  Do not use text message abbreviations.  Do not rely on a thesaurus.  The word you have to look up is the wrong word.  If you can only define a word by looking it up in a dictionary, you may not use that word in your communication until you have added it to your vocabulary.  If you work in an acronym heavy field like the military or information technology, define your acronyms.  Also, no emoticons.Email Shield

Never say something in an email that you are unwilling or unable to say in person.  Never fire somebody, or break up with somebody with an email.  Some conversations were meant to be held in person, and emotionally charged conversations do not translate well into emails.  A gentleman does not hide behind a computer screen.These rules should serve as a guideline for effective email communication, but they are by no means a comprehensive list.  If you want something even simpler, remember this;  Jesus himself commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  This applies to email as well.  Email others as you would have them email you.  Good email etiquette really is that simple.

A Brief History of the Amateur Mechanic


I am one of those guys who does not feel comfortable driving a vehicle who’s operation I do not at least vaguely understand. I am no mechanic, but I like to do as much maintenance and repair work as I can to save money, as well as to earn man points (I like to recount my repair projects, but usually leave out the time spent studying the manual and searching Google). I know several guys who’s understanding of their vehicle is limited to “I turn the key and it goes.” These guys are at the mercy of mechanics who charge up to $120 an hour for labor and admittedly mark up parts by at least 10%.

I am not suggesting you must do all of your own work and maintenance, but I do believe that a failure to understand the basic operation and maintenance of your vehicle will cost you. The operation manual for the 1922 Ford Model-T has this in the forward:

But while it is not imperative, it is, however, altogether desirable that every Ford owner should thoroughly understand his car. With such knowledge at his command he is always master of the situation—he will maintain his car more economically—prolong its usefulness and he will also derive more pleasure from it, for it is a truism that the more one knows about a thing the more one enjoys it.

The entire operation manual is written under the expectation that the driver will know the ins and outs of the vehicle and maintain it himself. What may not be readily apparent is how much more complex this was in the 1920′s.

Operation of the Model-T

While little has changed mechanically over the last 90 years, the actual operation is much less complex today. Here are the basic steps the regular Joe followed to get from A to B in his shiny new Model-T:

· Check oil, fuel, and water levels (every time it is driven)
· Open the throttle control knob about three quarters.
· Advance the spark control knob one notch from max.
· Pull the hand lever all the way back.
· Put the key in the ignition.
· Turn the hand crank towards the car until you hear it engage (don’t do this too fast or it will kick back and hurt you).
· Lift the crank quickly to start the motor (this may take a few tries, especially in hot or cold weather).
· Turn the ignition switch on (select the magneto (called an alternator today) instead of the battery).
· Adjust the spark control knob until the engine revs the fastest, but retard it if the engine starts to knock.
· Hold the clutch pedal half way in (neutral) and engage the hand lever forward.
· Push the clutch pedal all the way in (slow speed) to get the car moving.
· Once momentum is gained, let the clutch out completely (high speed).
· To stop, push the clutch to the middle position, and apply the foot brake. Pull the hand lever all the way back and let off the clutch (the far back position engages brakes).
· To reverse, come to a complete stop and pull the hand brake almost all the way back. Press on the reverse peddle.

There you have it. We haven’t even addressed the routine maintenance, for what Ford called the simplest car ever designed. Maintenance was to be done by the owner and included:

· Checking all fluid levels before operation
· Lubricating the vehicle every 2 – 3 days.
· Regular inspection of the running gear.
· Checking for play in the wheels.
· Re-tightening ALL nuts and bolts.
· Grinding the values when they get dirty.
· Cleaning the spark plugs.
· Adjusting crank shaft bearings.
· And on and on…

If you are one of those guys that finds basic maintenance to be a nuisance, bear in mind that men of your same stature 90 years ago did their own valve jobs and engine rebuilds and considered it maintenance.

Today, controls are different and simpler. Parts last longer and there is less to maintain. The computer scares many of us (myself included), but all the computer does is puts a sensor on each of the various parts to help you diagnose a problem. Our vehicles are easy to understand and diagnose.

Here is your assignment: Go purchase the repair manual for your vehicle. They run about $25 and will save you more than that after your first minor repair project. Read the first chapter in the manual. This goes over basic maintenance that will, at the very least, save some of your money from the mechanic. I am not suggesting that you learn to rebuild your transmission, nor am I suggesting you have to change your own oil (it doesn’t actually save you much money to do this). What I am suggesting is that next time your battery goes dead, you don’t pay for a tow to the shop, diagnostics fees, and a marked up battery. And when you do choose to use a mechanic, you won’t find yourself paying to have blinker fluid added or the whackadewy tightened.

Reader Poll – Can You Tie a Bowline Knot?

Tie a Bowline Knot

Welcome to the Tuesday Reader Poll. The way this works is pretty straight forward. I ask a question. You answer. You add comments below if you feel your answer needs an explanation, you don’t like your choices, or you just have something relevant to share.

After voting, if you’ve ever used a bowline in a real world activity, we’d love to hear about it.

Valentines Gift Any Man Can Make In Minutes


Women love poetry.  It speaks to their souls and tells them that we care about them.  While many men will go to their local stores and pick out something cheesy from the Hallmark aisle, you sir will be creating a loving and thoughtful poem from scratch.  I know, many of you claim to not to be poetic, and in truth many of you are not.  We can fix that.

To craft a loving poem with a minimum of effort, thought, or actual poetic ability, we will use a literary form known as an acrostic.  I know, it sounds scary, but it’s really not. There are some famous and infamous acrostics that you’ve probably heard of, like Poe’s Elizabeth poem, or the Governators F*^% You veto letter.  We won’t be doing anything that elaborate.  Here is a simple acrostic example:

Intelligent Lovely Original Valuable Energetic Youthful Outstanding Upbeat

Do you see the hidden message in the first letters of the words? That’s what makes it an acrostic.  It is a constrained writing style where the first letter of each word combines to form another word or phrase.  In the example above, the first letters spell out I LOVE YOU.  It really is that simple.  You try one.  Here’s what you do:

  1. You pick a name or phrase
  2. You pick a bunch of adjectives that begin with the appropriate first letters
  3. You write them down
  4. You give them to your wife
  5. You get rewarded for being such a thoughtful romantic husband

I have some adjectives listed below if you need inspiration or get stuck on a particular letter.  I highly recommend not using X in your phrase if possible because the X-based adjectives are limited.  Once you have your acrostic finished, you need to give it to her, preferably on a card.  You can get as crafty as you want with this step, but no purchasing a card or you’ll lose points.  The simplest is to take a sheet of paper, fold it in half, and cut out a heart.  Write your acrostic on the front, I Love You, Happy Valentines Day on the inside and sign it.  There you go.  You now posses a hand crafted card containing an original poem made by you.  Be prepared for an enthusiastic response from the lady in your life, especially if this is wildly out of character for you.  If you need help making a card, download and print the template below.


Alphabetical Adjectives for Incredible Inspiration and Passionate Poetry

Awesome Angelic Able Athletic Attractiverebecca

Beautiful Bold Blessed Brave Brilliant Buxom

Calm Creative Caring Compassionate Courageous Captivating

Delightful Daring Dependable

Eager Ernest Endearing Enthusiastic Exotic

Faithful Fierce Fantastic Frugal

Gorgeous Great Gracious Grateful Graceful Glamorous

Holy Humble Heroic Helpful Healer Hot

Insightful Innocent Intelligent Interesting Incredible

Just Jolly Joyful Jovial Jaunty

Kind Kissable Kinky Kindred

Loving Leader Luscious Lovely

Maternal Majestic Magnificent

Noble Nice Natural Naughty

Open Original Orderly Organized Optimistic

Quaint Qualified Quick Quiet Quirky

Real Reasonable Reverent Respectfulcatlin

Stellar Stupendous Sensuous Serious Sexy

Trustworthy Tasty Tantalizing Talented Tender

Upright Understanding Ultimate Unique

Valiant Voluptuous Voracious Vigorous Virtuous

Wonderful Wild Wise Warm Witty

Xerotic(dry) Xyloid(wooden) Xylophonic(melodic)

Youthful Yummy

Zany Zesty Zealous