Under the Hood

Well, I did it.

I finally got to the part in the owner’s manual about opening the hood, so I followed the simple instructions and immediately found myself standing there holding the hood up by hand while searching for the little prop.

Actually, the first thing I noticed during this search was that this was certainly by far the fullest engine compartment I’ve ever seen. Not a cubic inch wasted. The second thing I noticed was that at least half of the objects in there had Don’t Touch Me Here signs ranging from the mildly alarming to the seriously frightening.

This will perhaps explain my reluctance to go tugging around on likely-looking things in hopes of finding something that I could use to prop the hood open. It was only when I was about to give up that I finally saw that instead of positioning the hood prop at the edge of the engine compartment where God and Soichiro Honda intended, Toyota had cleverly hidden it on underside of the hood itself.

With the hood finally propped open, I was free to perform a leisurely examination. In the left part of the compartment is a large object that I would guess to be the engine, basing this supposition upon seeing what looks very much like a dipstick ring at one edge of it, not that I wasabout to stick my finger in it until I have got some industrial-thickness rubber gloves to guard against electrocution.

I had expected the motor to look something like a giant alternator or like the generators that were found in cars back when the hoods were held open by springs on the hinges. Nothing there looks at all like this, but since I could see only the top layer of stuff, there was still plenty of room underneath for the motor. At any rate, I apparently don’t have to worry my little head about the motor and can close the hood on this chapter for now.

But since the manual has made it clear that I am expected to check the oil level at every fill-up, I’ll need to buy the rubber gloves and confirm that that thing really is the dipstick before I need gas in a few weeks.

Actually, that event may occur sooner, as I’ll be driving a couple hundred miles north weekend after next and will probably not be able to resist going ahead and topping the tank off while I’m out of town since gas is so much cheaper elsewhere.

And finally, on a somewhat related issue, I drove the car this afternoon for the first time since parking it Saturday afternoon, and I can share with you two observations. First, while I was test driving the car on Saturday I noticed that the acceleration was a little wimpy but realized that at this point in my life I am probably better off without quite so much acceleration. What struck me today was that the Prius is so quiet that you don’t realize how fast you’re being moved. The engine is quite small and has excellent sonic isolation…and motors are nearly soundless to begin with. This is especially striking if you’ve been driving a Saturn, which are notoriously noisy.

My second observation this afternoon was that driving habits in The City have deteriorated enormously in the past couple of days. The streets are now full of folks zooming around in the most reckless and aggressive manner, endangering the vehicles of others. I shall have to write a strong letter to the Chronicle.

Of course, while I’m writing letters, I’ll have to dash one off to Toyota pointing out that since they do not make this vehicle with manual windows, the very least they could do to compensate for this egregious waste of power is to provide a bicycle pedal arrangement in the floor in front of the passengers’ seats so they could make themselves useful by generating some electricity.

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