I have a 16-year-old Ford Escort wagon. It’s a good little car, very reliable and gets good gas mileage – around 32 mpg. I like that I can cram a really lot of stuff in it – one of my criteria for a useful car.

Well, due to the advanced age of my vehicle, it has in the last year or so started to have various odd parts fall off, break, or develop cracks.  For instance, sometime last winter the right rear tail light cracked and started to fill with water, causing the brake light and the backup light bulbs to sort of explode when the water splashed around in there. So last weekend I finally got up the nerve to take the light off and see if I could fix it.

 This takes courage when you have never done such a thing before, because what appears to be a simple task always grows exponentially in time and cost as you delve into it. I was able to fix the tail light (ok so far) with only the expense of some high-tech glue and a new bulb, but we will see if it stays dry next time we get a good downpour.

Well that didn’t require the use of a paper clip, although in retrospect I could have used one to apply the glue. Nevermind, I used a toothpick. Same principle in that job.

However what inspired me to write on the topic this article is named for came within a few days of fixing the tail light. I had my 86-year-old mom out for a drive and she was struggling with the door handle. She couldn’t get the door to open. I reached over to do it for her, thinking she just forgot how and was pushing instead of pulling, or something.

It wouldn’t open for me either. We were inside trying to get out. So I got out of the car, went around to her side and tried the outside door handle. It worked fine. Well, that at least made it possible to get out of the passenger side of the car, but it wasn’t very convenient to roll down the window to use the outside door handle.  So I went to get help from my fix-it friend.

Here is where it gets complicated. It was no easy task to get the door panel off so we could see what was broken. I don’t want to bore you with the details, but getting the window crank handle off (they are manual windows) took some figuring out. When we finally got it off and could get a good look at what the problem was, my friend then went to the Ford dealership to get a replacement part for the broken thingy.

Guess how much a plastic L-shaped doohicky with a hole in it costs? $198.00. I am not kidding. I would drive the car without the door being able to open before I’d pay that much for a little plastic gizmo about the size of a bent toothpick.

So we both thought about it for a while, then my mister fix-it friend came up with the paper clip solution; he took a paperclip and wrapped it around the wire the inside door handle operates, then bent it at a 90 degree angle and wrapped it around the inside of the door handle. I couldn’t get a camera in there, it would have made great photos. Maybe I can draw a picture and scan it.

Paperclip 101st use
Paperclip 101st use
There you go.  Hamster cruisin’