Friday, April 27, 2007

Self-Healing Technology

I love self-healing technology! It's kind of like skin. Cut it and it bleeds. But if you wait a while, it repairs itself. The mechanism is a mystery to most of us. But the results are the same: effortless repair, often just about as good as new.

Three examples:

1) My Sirius satellite radio receiver: A few months ago, I left it plugged into my car's lighter outlet overnight, and I forgot to turn it off. Three unfortunate things happened:
  1. It drew down all of the power from my car's battery, thus requiring me to get a jump from Beth's MINI.
  2. It blew one of my car's fuses, thus requiring me to replace an automotive fuse for the first time ever.
  3. The display died. So I spent a few months driving around with no visual indicator telling me which station I was tuned to, who was singing or talking, what song was playing, what the current score of the hockey game was, etc.,...
Since then, I have made a real effort to remember to turn off and unplug the receiver after each trip (less because of the fuse and the display issue than because having a dead battery is a real bummer).

However, one day last week, I forgot to unplug it. (But I did remember to turn it off, so at least it wasn't draining power from the battery. Not much, anyway.)

Guess what happened.


Most exciting. The display is now working like a charm. Now I can see what I'm listening to.

2) My car itself: I spent a week or two driving around with the "Service Engine Soon" indicator constantly lit. This was a little troubling, as I really don't want to have to invest money in a costly repair. But I checked the manual to see what this indicator really means. It turns out that it seems to tie into an emissions monitoring system. If the emissions go funky, the light comes on--presumably because the car isn't operating as well as it's supposed to. I guess it really means that it's not burning fuel as efficiently as it's supposed to do.

Anyway, as I was driving home from the book store the other night, I was fretting about this light, but I was also calculating (as the fuel gauge needle passed 1/2 tank at about 215 miles since my last fill up) that if this pace holds up, my mileage for this tankful is going to end up at somewhere north of spectacular.

Lo and behold, when next I looked down at the dashboard, the indicator had been extinguished. Self-healing technology! Hooray!

3) Beth's MINI's driver's side door lock: A few months ago, it stopped wanting to let her out when she wanted to get out. Instead of just being able to take the standard two pulls on the handle (the first to unlock, the second to open), she found herself needing to use the toggle switch on the center console to unlock the doors before it would let her out. Then at the beginning of last week, things got even worse! Now the toggle swich refused to do the trick. So when she got to work, she ended up having to crawl out through the passenger's side.

Actually, it seems that the toggle switch did unlock the door, but the door handle refused to actually disengage the latch, so the effect was the same. Luckily, this knowledge did lead to a somewhat less strenuous solution than crawling out the other side of the car: She could roll down her window and reach out to use the exterior handle to release her.

We contacted a mechanic friend to see whether he could fix the problem. He said he'd need to diagnose it and order any necessary part(s) and then he'd be able to fix it when the part(s) arrived. So that's a two day affair, and it's a pretty good trek from here to there. So we didn't make the appointment. (Beth came down with a nasty cold in the meantime, anyway, so she spent some days in bed, not worrying about the car.)

Over the weekend, we did some significant driving (as far as Long Island). You'll never guess what happened...

Self-healing! The MINI fixed itself.

Did I mention that I love self-healing technology?


  1. I do want to remain anonymous...Take me off.
    I love your blog.

  2. Done. But glad you're enjoying it, anyway. :- )

  3. Update:
    1) I've blown my fuse again. I'll have to replace that, as I'm sure it won't self-heal. 2) Turns out Beth's MINI only self-healed half of its problem. So it did end up needing a repair. Got that done, and it's now working like new. 3) Since my "Service Engine Soon" indicator went out, I've put 20 gallons of gas into the tank. Average mileage: over 37 m.p.g. Previously, I had considered my mileage to be pretty darned good if it was in the 33-34 m.p.g. range. In fact, I don't think I had EVER run it better than 35 m.p.g. before. So in this case, the self-healing seems to have been a truly smashing success!