Friday morning, I walk back out to Fezzik not really knowing what I’m going to do. I’ve exhausted every tip or trick suggested on a dozen websites and from half a dozen friends, most of whom are Montero owners themselves.
3 APRIL. DAY 6: A GOOD FRIDAY
Figuring I’m just going to have to take get it towed to the dealership for electrical diagnosis the following week, I don’t have much hope as I insert the key and turn it to the ON position BEFORE re-connecting the battery.
As I reconnect the battery, I hear all the relays cycle under the hood. I hear the fuel pump prime. I hear all the buzzing and humming you tend to hear when you turn a key to ON in a modern vehicle. My heart stops. I hold my breath. I walk around the door, climb up into the seat, grab the key and give it that last little turn.
I am so stoked. Barely 1 minute to get the truck started. Now what?
I google 3rd party title and inspection locations and find myself on the Arizona DMV site. What’s this? Emissions testing stations are open on Good Friday? Looks like I better get this thing drive cycled and ready for emissions testing. Figure I can be through emissions and getting my shit legal before sundown. What a pleasant surprise!
Running inside, I tell V I’ll be gone for a bit, off to drive cycle the truck and do emissions since I fixed it. She cheers. Penny cheers. It’s a good Friday. An hour later, I’m finishing my sixth or seventh lap on the frontage roads either side of I-17 about 20 minutes north of town when V calls. Roger is at the house. Something about an engine. Crap. Forgot about that.
I merge into traffic, pleased at how well things are going. Figured out the alarm BS. Got the truck started. Got the emissions stuff replaced. Now I’m going to get rid of the G54B engine that’s been sitting on the patio for a couple weeks and pocket a hundred bucks in the process before wrapping it all up in a single day. I make sure the turn signal is off and, what the…? CEL IS BACK.
Back at the house Roger and I load up the old engine, shoot the shit a few minutes, and he heads back up the hill to Prescott, presumably to work on his latest rally car. (A Mitsubishi Lancer Fire Arrow.)
Right. Time to get to it, then. I go back to Auto Zone, have them pull the code again. Same code. I tell them I just put a brand new, bought it this week, Bosch unit in, which appears to be DOA. I’m told to disconnect the battery and try again. You know, “sometimes the computers need to catch up.” Riiiight.
Off to Napa, where I get the Denso unit. Well, I pay for it. I have to drive all the way down to the ghetto (around the corner from work, actually) to the warehouse will-call. It’s pushing 3PM. Racing back to the house, new O2 riding shotgun – in the truck I’m going to be installing this in, by the way – I’m piecing it together in my mind.
An hour to swap sensors, an hour to drive cycle, I might just make it before they close at 5. Turns out they’re open until 7, but for some reason, I’m tripping balls about 5PM. (I’ve given up on getting the inspection, as you have to be through emissions and in line at the DMV by 3PM for that.)
GOIN’ BACK TO CALLIE.
I lift the truck a few inches with the jack for a little more room (all four tires are still touching the ground, by the way), crawl under, and try to keep my beard from catching fire on the hot exhaust. I pull the DOA Bosch and spin the new Denso into place. That’s when things get seriously frustrating.
Turns out the chassis harness for these guys hangs freely, while the sensor pigtails clip into a bracket bolted to the top and side of the transmission. These buggers would be challenging even IF the exhaust wasn’t still hot. I catch a whiff of burning hair, slide out, and force myself to calm down and take a breather.
Resorting to what I did the first time I swap this sensor, I leave the old sensor in the truck, tucked back over the heat shields, zip tied out of the way with a cap on it just in case. I reach up into the void, careful not to burn my beard, face, arm, hand, and connect the sensor. The connector doesn’t match. WTF?
3:30PM at this point, and I’m losing my shit. Are the connectors keyed, left and right? Why would they do that, unless – wait a minute. When I was buying this sensor, they asked me if I needed California emissions because there’s a left and right part number. You gotta be kidding me.
I jump up, run around to the driver’s door, check the labels. Nothing about California there.
I check under the hood.
THIS VEHICLE CONFORMS TO US EPA AND STATE OF CALIFORNIA REGULATIONS APPLICABLE TO 1998 MODEL YEAR NEW LEV LIGHT DUTY TRUCKS PROVIDED THAT THIS VEHICLE IS ONLY INTRODUCED INTO COMMERCE FOR SALE IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA.
Back to Napa. Buy my third O2 sensor. This time, they have the one I need in stock. The nice lady tells me I can bring the other one back since it wasn’t actually used. Good to know, since I’m into O2 sensors to the tune of about $240 at this point.
O2 swapped. Battery re-connected. Truck idling. Tools thrown into the garage. It’s just after 4 and I’ve got to drive cycle this thing and get to emissions.
Back to hot lapping I-17 between Dixileta and Jomax. Run it up to 40, hold it for 20 seconds, idle down to 20. Repeat 6-8 times. 60mph for 10 seconds, coast down to 40. Repeat another 6-8 times. May as well calibrate the digital compass while I’m up here.
Back on the highway. NO CEL THIS TIME. I’m exhausted, filthy, and completely out of cigarettes, but I go straight to emissions testing. It’s just after 5PM. V sends a text asking where I am. V sends another text saying, “If you’re at the DMV, I will stab you.” I tell her I’m emissions testing and will be home inside of an hour.
Roll up to the bay, hop out, let the man do his job. A couple minutes later, he tells me to get back in and asks for payment. He takes a quick look under the hood, closes it, closes the gas cap door, and hands me a piece of paper. “1998 Mitsubishi. Congratulations. You passed.”
3 REASONS WHY THIS IS SIGNIFICANT
First, and not the least of which, is hell I went through getting to this point.
Second, I’ve run Rocinante through emissions a good nine times in the three years I’ve owned him. (Meaning, I fail at least twice before pouring a couple bottles of rubbing alcohol in the tank and being done with it.) This is the first time, since having an AWD OBDI car (the GVR4s), I’ve passed emissions on the first attempt.
And, finally, it’s the first time I’ve ever – EVER – passed emissions with an OBDII vehicle in Arizona. I moved to Phoenix with Daisy, a 97 – OBDII – Talon, back in 2001, but kept my Kansas plates until my student ID expired because I never could get rid of some kind of bastard EVAP code. I sold her with that CEL lit in 2007.
Now I was just one step away from being fully legal.
4 APRIL. DAY 7: SATURDAY
Service Arizona, the DMV site, directed me to a place called 1 Stop for authorized, third party inspection, title, and registration services. They opened at 10AM Saturday. I was there 10 minutes later. Already, there was a lady leaning on the only open window, complaining about some bizarro problem she knew damn good and well she should have handled at the actual DMV. After about 15 minutes of her monopolizing the clerk’s time, they opened another window.
I was pleased to see the two guys ahead of me both stepped up, meaning I was next. The guy on the left told the clerk the truck hadn’t been registered in something like six years, so the title was moved to archives, but he’d been to the DMV the day before and they told him it was being pulled back out. Now he needed to sign it over to the guy who drove in from out of state and bought it.
I wasn’t pleased to hear the clerk tell them the title wasn’t in the system and they’d have to go to the DMV to resolve it. Because now they, too, were leaning on the counter, complaining about some bizarro problem they knew damn good and well they should have resolved yesterday at the DMV.
10 minutes later, they walk out. (Lazy lady is still going on and on about how something’s “unacceptable,” by the way.) I step up to the counter, smile, and tell the lady I hope mine’s an easy one. She smiles and takes my paperwork.
Unfortunately, the smile almost immediately disappears from her face as she holds up the title, points to where the seller wrote the license plate number on it, and says, “I’m sorry, but they won’t let us handle mutilated titles like this. I’m afraid you’re going to have to go to the DMV office for this one.” Balls.
8 APRIL. DAY 11: WEDNESDAY YOU WIN SOME, YOU LOSE SOME
I don’t get much time off at the new job yet, so I stayed a couple hours late the night before to make up for leaving a couple hours early on Wednesday. Since I needed a Level 1 inspection before I could register my out-of-state vehicle, I had to be at the DMV before 3PM.
I walked in, about 2:45, got a ticket for an inspection, title, and tags, and was directed to pull around back to the inspection station. Piece of cake. There wasn’t even a line!
A lady walked by, asked if I was there for an inspection, and said someone would be right out.
About 20 minutes later, a man walked by, asked if I was there for an inspection, and said someone would be right out.
10 minutes after that, the original lady walked by and, asked if anyone had come out to inspect the truck yet. When I said no, she told me I should step inside and remind the lady at the photo counter I had been waiting over half an hour for an inspection. She said there was a guy who sat out there for three hours one day last week and that was a bad day for pretty much everybody.
Within 5 minutes of reminding the girl at the photo counter, a gentleman came out with his little laptop-type deal, scanned the VIN plate in the door jam, asked me a couple questions, and apologized all over himself for making me wait. Meh. Sitting in my new truck in the shade was easy, I told him.
He gave me a print out saying I passed the inspection and told me to park and go back inside to finish up. I walked back in and sat down just as they called the number right before mine. PERFECT. WINNING!
ALL SMILES AT THE DMV
They called my number and I walked up to the gate. I handed the lady my number and she commented how nice it was I didn’t just throw it at her like all the other mouth breathers. Heh. I told her she represented the final step in what had been an arduous journey of vehicle ownership. The missing CEL bulbs. The O2 fiasco. The third party title office. I finally had everything in place and was genuinely happy to be sitting at her window.
She looked over my paperwork, did some data entry, then got a concerned look on her face. “The seller signed the title in the wrong place,” she said. “I can’t accept this title.”
I was gutted. I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t sad. I was just completely defeated. I think she saw it on my face. “You know what. Let me take this and your bill of sale to my manager and see if there’s any way we can make this happen for you today.” I held out my little plastic folder, with every scrap of paper I had for the transaction and she walked away.
A couple minutes later, she returned with the bad news. “Sorry,” she said, ”they won’t let me accept this title as is.” The good news, she pointed out, was that since the seller had already signed in front of a notary, all he had to do was re-sign in the right place with the original date. Sure, he was in California, but maybe I could do it in the mail instead of spending a weekend on the road to visit the California DMV! In the meantime, the nice lady gave me a 90 day paper tag so I’d be legal while I did the needful.
Back outside, I started up Fezzik, cranked the AC, and called Rolando in California. “Hey, buddy!” I said. “It’s Brian in Phoenix with the Montero.” He perked right up, “Hey! How’s it going?” I told him I needed to ask a favor and a question. “Sure thing,” he replied.
“First,” I told him, “You signed the title on the wrong line, so Arizona won’t accept it.”
“Yeah, but the good news is, since you already signed with a notary, all you have to do is re-sign – with the same date – and mail it back to me. If I FedEx this thing to you, can you do me a kindness, re-sign, and send it right back so I can actually drive this thing without your plates on it?”
“Absolutely. Haha. Put a return envelope inside with the address on it, for me?”
And off to FedEx I went, where I spent $8 sending the title back to California. As I type this, Rolando says it’s on its way back to me now. I’ve got my fingers crossed. Now that I’ve passed emissions and inspection, all I need is that title to finalize my registration and make Fezzik officially mine.
And not a minute too soon, either! I’ve got a little 4-wheeling trip planned for this weekend.
>> ffwd: The trip went great. Details in an upcoming article. In the meantime…
20 APRIL. DAY 23: THE BRUTE SQUAD
Came home Friday to a FedEx envelope on my doorstep. Inside, a correctly signed, California title. Monday, 4/20, I took it – and all my other paperwork – to the DMV. 24 days after I found Fezzik on Craigslist in another state, I walked out into the sunshine; clean & clear Arizona title and license plate in-hand.
Anybody want a peanut?