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THIS is Africa

And, as African expat Kim DuToit always says: Africa wins again.

Sometime in the late 70s or early 80s, I had the opportunity to work in Senegal for several months. My very first experience in-country was that the rental vehicle wouldn’t start. While the friendly and talkative mechanic repaired the jeep, he inquired if this was my first trip to Africa. “No,” I replied. “Ahhh!” he said, “then I don’t have to explain the meaning of ‘TIA’ to you.”

But I’d never heard that term or what it meant. When I asked, he explained, saying, “This is Africa; nothing works!” Indeed, in my travels, it was much the same in Latin America and other places I have lived, worked, or visited back in the day. When I returned to the U.S. it was a joy to drop a quarter into a payphone and hear a dial tone, or find that the nearest toilet always had toilet paper at hand.

But, in 2023, in Biden’s America, the acronym takes on a whole new meaning. Last week my wife’s car wouldn’t start, and after several return visits to the dealership, the problem remained undiagnosed. The service tech apologized and said, “it’s TIA.” I asked him what that meant, and he said, “This is America; no one knows how to fix things anymore.” Talk about a reflective moment.

Yep. And as I always say: that’s neither accident, nor coincidence, nor happenstance. It’s part of a plan.

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There are auto problems difficult to diagnose. Generally, failure to start is not one of them.
Frankly, I don’t believe it. How did they get the non starting vehicle to the dealer? Was it towed there? When did it “wake up” and begin working normally?

While there are many things wrong in this country, every failure isn’t evidence that things are going downhill. I can make a list of exceptional items along with professionalism and superb engineering that show the complete opposite.

There are always anomalies, the problem (car or otherwise) that is difficult to solve because it is intermittent in nature and hasn’t been seen before.

Let’s put this in perspective:
Cars in 1960 were usually worn out by 100-150K miles. That is now just the warm up/ break in period.
Cars in 1960-1970-1980 needed a tuneup every 10K miles or so. I replaced the 120K spark plugs in the 300K mile Avalanche a couple months ago. 120K, and they looked just fine. Automatic transmissions going 300,000 miles and shift fine, work fine, and don’t leak a drop?

Sorry, not buying it. Any fair analysis will show that things are much better now than ever before.


Very likely. Cars these days have a parasitic draw that discharges the battery faster than the old days. When I know we’re going to be on the coast for 3 weeks or more I’ll disconnect the battery cable on the vehicles sitting at home or put them on maintenance charger. If you’re battery is a bit on the weak side you might not get three weeks…

It’s true that they are “technicians” now. I recall a story from years ago when one of the car magazines did an interview with GM ICE engineer, a man that knew the engines inside and out, and they asked him what would be the first thing to do if his car died on the side of the road. Paraphrasing his answer from memory it was “I wouldn’t even open the hood. I’d call for the tow truck since the only way to diagnose the system is with the computer diagnosis”. I’ll say that was a bit over the top since I can figure out most things without the computer aid. OTOH, such things as a minor “misfire” issue are much more difficult to solve than back in the 60/70’s. You really do need the diagnosis tools to do that. The good news is that the stuff is so damn good that it rarely fails.

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