Amazon.com Widgets Karma - A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care

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I doubt it's possible to take a transcontinental road trip without one's vehicle experiencing some sort of mechanical breakdown, but yesterday's adventure was pretty harmless. On the way from Quebec to Montreal, my fondness for gadgetry blew a fuse in the minivan, which disabled the radio and the power outlet. [1] In my old cars, replacing a fuse was a simply matter of looking at a small box beneath the dash, but a 2004 Chrysler minivan hold its entire collection of fuses in an "integrated power management" box under the hood, next to the battery. Unfortunately, the explanatory diagram of the IPM box makes sense only if you already know what its acronyms mean. I couldn't immediately understand it, but as we were about to stop at a hotel for the night anyway, I used the University of Google to figured out which of the dozens of fuses probably needed to be replaced. One short hop to a pieces d'auto in Montreal and our radio happily spewed French pop music again. Figuring that they might be handy, I bought four fuses at the auto store.

An hour later, halfway between Montreal and Ottawa, I pulled over for a cup of coffee. On the way out of the service station, I walked by an older couple standing in front of their Dodge Caravan, staring quizzically at the cover of an integrated power module. "Fuse blown?" I asked. They replied that yes, their radio wasn't working, but that they didn't know which fuse to replace. I told them that it was the one labeled "RDO," and asked if they had the right part. Although they had bought a small box of generic fuses in the filling station, none of them fit, so I gave them one of mine and a spare for the road. "How'd you blow it, anyway? Overload the cigarette lighter?"

"Yes," said the husband, sheepishly. "I was using my laptop."

[1] For what it's worth, I think that a Chrysler or Dodge minivan will quite happily charge a notebook when it is not in use, but the fuse tends to blow when a powerful notebook's fans kick in.

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