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If You Have The Faith Of A Jack Stand

November 24, 2017

I had a religious discussion while replacing the power steering pump in a 1991 Chrysler New Yorker. It came down to jack stands.

First some background. As long time readers of this blog know, working on cars is one of my hobbies. Oh sure, it saves money, but it’s also something I enjoy. I think it’s the contrast with my normal job of working in IT. If you work with computers, at the end of the day there is often little physical evidence of your labors. My company has a clean desk policy. That means at the end of the day my desk looks exactly the same as it did at the beginning of the day.

Working on cars is different. There’s occasionally some work that needs to be done with error codes and the onboard computers, but mostly it’s hands-on, get-your-hands-dirty work. And you take a car that isn’t running, or is running rough or badly and when you get done, it’s running smoothly. My son’s 91 Chrysler had a steering problem. The power steering was failing. It took Hercules to crank the wheel. The power steering is controlled by the power steering pump.

To replace the power steering pump, you have to remove the right front tire. . .and the serpentine belt. . .and the alternator. . .and the belt tensioner pulley. . .and a couple of brackets, one of which we never did figure out where to replace. . and then you can pull the power steering reservoir and pump. After you replace the pump in the reservoir, you reassemble it in the opposite order.

I’m been working on the project for about a month. Lots of business travel and occasional bad weather have limited the time I could spend on it. And frankly, although I like working on cars, I honestly don’t know a lot about them. I finally called in reinforcements. My cousin Nick is a great mechanic. He came down to help me finish up the project this week.

Nick grew up in Salt Lake City. But, unlike most people in Utah, he’s not Mormon. In fact, he’s not religious. He’s agnostic. We spent about 6 hours wrestling with the power steering pump. It gave us a lot of time to talk. Our discussion turned to faith, specifically faith in a higher power.

You know, I figure if the devil is real, then there must also be a God. And I know that if there is a God, I don’t want to worship the devil. So, I couldn’t be a Satan worshiper.

I laughed. It made a lot of sense in a “follow my logic” point of view. I respect his world view. And since he’s a great guy who tries to be a good person, who am I to say that he needs to change? I tried to explain my idea on faith. There’s a scripture that says faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. To me it means that faith and evidence cannot coexist. And since faith is a necessary part of our relationship with diety, it would actually be counter-productive if we could prove the existance of God. (Like, I said, we had a lot of time to talk.)

I decided to use a physical example. I held out my hand with my fist clenched.

I’m telling you that I have a coin in my hand. Do you believe me?



Well, I know you are an honest person and you’ve never lied to me.

Okay, so you have faith based on what you know of me that I’m holding a coin?


I then opened my hand to reveal a Schlock Mercenary challenge coin.

I then closed my fist again.

Now, if I tell you I have a coin in my hand, do you believe me?

Of course.


Well, because I just saw it.

In the first example Nick had faith in me, the second time he had knowledge. In this simple example, he couldn’t have both. If we pulled some random guy off the street and did the same exercise, it’s unlikely he would have faith in me the first time. Random Guy doesn’t know if he can trust me or not. But, after showing the coin, Random Guy is, of course going to agree that I have a coin.

I was pretty pleased with my simple object lesson. Nick had an insightful observation.

Oh, I get that. But, you are still asking me to have faith in a man. I don’t know if the preacher, or the prophet, or the pope has had a spiritual conversation with God. I pretty much have to take his word for it.

And that’s why there are so many different paths on the road of faith. I couldn’t disagree with his point. We went back to reassembling the various parts in the Chrysler engine. We got down to last screw that needed to be tightened. Actually, we only remembered the last screw because we messed up. (I was going to say we “screwed up” but that would be a pun too far.) We got the upper part of the engine put back together. We tightened all the bolts and went to refill the power steering resevoir with new power steering fluid. It’s basically a really thin oil. Nick held the funnel, I very carefully poured the fluid. We both heard the fluid splatter on the driveway at about the same time.

Yeah, we had neglected to hook up the return hose to the bottom of the pump. We’d just dumped a half pint of oil all over my driveway. We just shook our heads and were glad no one was there to see it. Getting the final hose on required us to tighten the hose clamp. The clamp was located exactly halfway between the top and bottom of the engine in a really narrow spot. We ended up with me lying down under the car with my arm fully extended to hold the clamp in place. Meanwhile Nick was literally kneeling in the engine compartment reaching down into the engine trying to use a screwdriver to tighten this one last screw.

Nick is a big guy. Well over six feet tall and 200 lbs. In addition, the car itself is pretty heavy. And I was lying directly under the exposed wheel hub. If the car had fallen, I would have died. It would have been quick, painless and very messy as the weight of the car (and my cousin) drove the steel hub into my chest. And yet, I had perfect confidence in my safety. The car was supported on two jack stands. The jack stands are rated at 2 tons, 4000 lbs, each. I thought about our earlier discussion about faith.

You know, Nick, someday I hope to have the same level of faith in my religion that I have in these jack stands.

He just laughed.

The jack is used to raise and lower the car onto the jack stands. The jack stands are what keeps the car held like the rock of Gibraltar

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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