Dear Engineer, What Were You Thinking?

Prairie Gleanings

Sometimes there's an obvious disconnect between the drawing board and the field.

Published on: March 23, 2011
Have you ever thought, “I’d love to meet the engineer who designed this”? Sometimes that thought will crop up in a moment of joy. Other times, it’s a moment of frustration.

Last week, it’s a good thing the engineer didn’t appear when that thought crossed my mind. It would have been bad for him/her.

A couple months ago, we traded cars for a 2001 Nissan Xterra. It’s 10 years old, but here’s the best part. It only had 35,000 miles. I figured it would be the perfect car to add miles to without having to pay an exorbitant sum for a new car.

So, last week, it came time for me to change the oil. The SUV’s taller stance meant I didn’t need a jack, definite bonus. I pulled the plug and smiled as the oil ran, unobstructed, into the drain pan.

As the pan filled, I began hunting for the filter. I couldn’t find it on the bottom, so I figured you could get to it from the top of the engine. After another 15 minutes of searching, I started to get irritated. I got back under the car and looked around some more.

“Surely they wouldn’t have put it under the skid plate.” They did.

As I pulled an additional eight bolts, my smile had turned to a frown. I found it nestled just above the skid plate. After a quick Google search, I saw that in later years they added an access plate with just two bolts.

Luckily, it was a nice 70-degree day when I found out about this little quirk. Come winter, I’ll really be cursing the engineer who thought dropping a chest-sized skid plate every 3,000 miles was no big deal.

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