I thought I might update you all on my recent car woes. Since I haven’t had much drama in my life recently, I need to create it where I can!
Let me start with a little bit of back-history. In the last couple of months I have spent a lot of money on my car. First, the brakes. This was normal. It was time to get my brake pads replaced anyway, so that was no big deal. $200. A few weeks later, I was driving home from work when I realized that my car wasn’t moving like it should when I stepped on the gas. It seemed like it was thinking about it for a few seconds before deciding “Oh, OK. You want me to go!” Then the check engine light came on. I brought the car in to be fixed, and the total was $600. I thought I was now done with it. Nope.
In the next few weeks, I noticed the air conditioning wasn’t working. And the check engine light came on. I brought it in, got it fixed, another $1000. I figured as long as this is it, I’m still OK. I won’t go to the poor house because of my car. Hah! A week later, I noticed the check engine light come back on. It stayed on for a day before it turned off again. “I guess that’s nothing to worry about…” I thought to myself.
Two weeks later, just when it had started getting cold, I noticed my heat wasn’t working correctly. It was fine as long as my car was moving, but if I stopped at a light or in traffic it would blow cold air. I figured I would wait to fix it this time until after Christmas, I could live with the frigid airs of Florida for a little while.
The next problem – a week ago this past Monday, I drove over to my friend’s house. We had a jolly good ‘ol time eating pizza and having girl talk. I left around 8:30 thinking I would get home nice and early and go to bed at a reasonable hour. I was driving for about three minutes when I noticed that my car was veering hard to the left. As long as I kept the wheel turned to the right to compensate, I could still drive. I thought something must have happened to my alignment or something. I figured I would bring it into the mechanics tomorrow morning before work. I drove a couple more minutes and got onto the highway. Suddenly, my car started making a very loud bumping noise and was behaving erratically. I pulled to the shoulder as soon as I was able and put on my emergencies. Turns out, I had a flat. And not just ANY flat. It was the mac-daddy of all flats. It almost looked like my tire had exploded!
I called the number for the highway people who will come help stranded motorists. I had thought they were called the “Road Warriors”, but I later learned that they are actually called the “Road Rangers”. I probably sounded pretty silly when I called up asking them to send me the Road Warriors right away. Good thing they didn’t send swordsmen on horses to slay my car. I told them where I was located, and they said they would send someone out to assist me. I was pretty nervous waiting inside my car on a highway. I’ve heard stories of cars or trucks driving past a stopped vehicle and accidentally veering a bit into the shoulder and hitting the car that was pulled over.
After I had been waiting for about 10 minutes, I saw a cop pull up behind me. That was a relief. I figured that the flashing lights of a police car would cause people to be much more careful driving past me. I explained what had happened and that I was waiting for the “Road Warriors” to come and fix my tire. He did not correct my use of “Road Warriors”, but he probably snickered inwardly to himself at my ignorance. He told me that he would wait in his car behind me until they came, and that I should just sit in my car and let the heat run to stay warm. I wish I could have done that! Only cold air was blowing, so I just left the car off to save my gas.
I was waiting about 45 minutes to an hour before another cop pulled up next to the first cop. They talked for a short while, and then both walked back up to my car. When they got up to my car, I opened the window and was VERY tempted to ask, “What seems to be the problem, officers?” but I restrained myself. I can’t remember their names, but so I don’t have to keep saying “cop number one” and “cop number two”, I’ll call the first cop “Frank” and the second cop “Dan”.
Officer Frank spoke first. “Hey, If I knew they were just sending a trooper to change your tire, I would have changed it myself!” He said this a bit accusingly, he almost seemed a little hurt, as if I didn’t think he could have changed it.
“No, I swear, I called for the Road Warriors! I thought they were coming!” I gave him a little smile, as if somehow that would make it all better. I do have VERY powerful smiles, after all. Officer Dan explained “I think the Road Rangers” (This is where I learned of my mistake) “stop working after 9:30, so they just sent a trooper. We can get this changed in a jiffy, don’t worry.”
I got out of the car and opened the trunk to get out my donut. They struggled a bit getting my exploded tire off, but they did manage. When they put the donut on, they noticed it was extremely flat. “We need air for your spare!” officer Frank joked. Officer Dan shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t have an air compressor with him. Officer Frank looked proud when he said that he did have one in his car. He looked at me pointedly, as if to drive it home that everything would have gone quickly and smoothly if I just asked him to change the tire in the first place.
They went out to get it, and when they brought it back he asked me to plug it into my cigarette lighter. I did this and they bent down to fill my tire. The switch flipped on… but nothing. Confused, they moved one of the cop cars next to mine to use the cigarette lighter in that one, just in case there was a problem with mine. Still nothing. Well, I wouldn’t say nothing. I could feel the heat coming from the window of his car and it felt great considering that I had been shivering in my car for about an hour.
At this point I was feeling like I would never get off the road. I looked down to my phone to send out a quick text message saying just that, and when I looked back up I saw that officer Frank had taken apart the charger part of the compressor. I was pretty impressed that he knew what he was doing, and that he thought he could fix it by taking it apart. He was fiddling around with tiny springs and other pieces inside the charger when I heard an “oops!” from officer Frank. I looked questioningly at officer Dan, and he told me that one of the tiny springs had dropped to the pavement. They shined their flashlights on the ground, trying to find it, but I didn’t have much hope. I glanced at the street from inside my icebox, and I thought I saw something glint in the road. “Is that it?” I asked, pointing from inside the car. I opened my door and reached under the cop car and picked up the spring.
“Wow!” they both marveled. “What amazing eyes you have! How did you see it from all the way over there?” I basked for a while in their admiration and batted my eyes and said “Oh, I just saw something sparkle.” They smiled at me and got back to work messing around with the tiny pieces. Then he dropped it again. “Shoot! See if you can see another sparkle!” But before I had the chance to use my awesome sparkle powers, they found it themselves.
By now I was getting pretty frustrated at how long this was taking. I was grateful that they were going through so much trouble to help a stranded motorist, but I was tired, and cold, and I wanted to go home. Finally, officer Frank realized that a fuse must have been missing. “I think I know where it went,” he said, “My son was asking me for a fuse the other day for his guitar. I think he probably figured I never use this and took it.”
“Tell your son I am very mad at him!” I said. Officer Dan turned towards the road and looked at all the cars driving by. “I bet they are all saying, ‘How many cops does it take to change a tire?'” he joked. I laughed appreciatively.
Officer Frank thought that the only thing they could do would be to drive the tire to the nearest gas station and fill it up and then bring it back with them. This sounded like it would take a while. “Can’t I just take one of your tires?” I asked. He laughed. I guess he thought I was joking.
Officer Dan suggested that he call his girlfriend to bring his air compressor from home. “Well, if you do that, I am getting out of here fast!” said officer Frank, walking back towards his car with his broken air compressor.
“Is he afraid of your girlfriend?” I asked officer Dan. “You have no idea!” he laughed. I pondered for a while over what that could possibly have meant; however, before I could ask for more information, officer Frank walked back up to my car to wish me luck. I thanked him for his help before he left.
After another 10 or so minutes, officer Dan’s girlfriend arrived. She never left her car so I didn’t have the chance to see what was so scary about her, but if she brought a working air compressor then I didn’t care! Officer Dan walked back to my car with his compressor and got to work. I heard the noise of air blowing. “Success!” I thought. Then I heard “hmmmm….” coming from officer Dan’s general direction.
“Was that a good hmmmm?” I asked. He shook his head. “Unfortunately I can only get this filled to about 40 pounds. This tire takes 60. You are going to have to drive up to the next exit and go to a gas station to fill the rest of this up.” Drat, I thought this was over. “Ok, well, thank you so much for all your help!” He nodded (I imagine if he would have been wearing a hat, he would have tipped it) and walked back towards his girlfriends car.
Initially, the lazy part of me thought I would just take my chances with the deflated tire. I mean, 40 pounds is still pretty good… I could probably make it. I really didn’t want to get out of my car and go back out into the cold any more than I had to. But I decided I didn’t want to take the chance that my spare would pop. And I did have half an hour still to drive.
I managed to find the gas station with no problem, and filled up the tire with only a little bit of difficulty. Then I finally headed home. A drive that should have taken 30 minutes ended up taking about three hours. But I made it home, and planned to wake up early to bring the car in to change the tire.
The next morning, I brought the car to the mechanic and told them about the tire. I figured since I was there, I would have them check out the heat problem, and check into why my check engine light went on for a few hours two weeks back.
I was waiting around for my ride to work when the mechanic came inside to show me my tires. “Yep, I think I see what happened here. See your tires? They are all cracking on the sides. I don’t know if it is from age or what, but you’re going to need to get them all changed.” “Greeeaaaat…” I thought. “This is going to be pricey.” But I told him to go ahead and change them all.
My ride came and I got to work, and a couple of hours later I got a call from the mechanic. “Well, we found out that your heat isn’t working because there is a problem with your temperature gauge. And your temperature gauge went bad because whoever changed your hoses last time didn’t do a complete coolant flush, and all the impurities built up and caused the inside of your water pump to rust and corrode. You will have to change the water pump otherwise it will just cause the temperature gauge to go bad again.” OK, I have that in quotes, but that isn’t exactly what was said. I am not all that knowledgeable with car speech. What I heard was “blah blah blah blah you are putting my kids through college, thanks! blah blah blah”.
I felt sick waiting for what came next… what this was all going to cost me. “This is going to run you about $1050 altogether.” I let a slow whistle out. “Ok… I guess if it needs to get done, it needs to get done…” I said slowly. “He thanked me (a bit too enthusiastically, I think) and said he would call me when it was ready.
Cut to the end of the day, I was dropped off again at the mechanic. I picked up my car and handed them my credit card, hoping that this was the last time I would see them in a while. I drove home, happy about the heat I felt coming out of the vents. I noticed a strange smell shortly after I was driving, but I figured it was just the smell of new coolant, and that it would fade. Then, when I was about five minutes from home, I saw white smoke pouring out of my hood. “Nooooooo!” I cried, banging the steering wheel. The car place closed at 6, and it was 6:15, but I figured I’d try to reach them anyway. I did manage to reach someone and he told me to just come in the next morning. They figured it was probably just a fluid that splashed on the engine and it was burning off, but they wanted to check just to be sure. I prayed for that to be right.
The next morning I woke up bright and early (again) to take the car in. It’s a half hour drive to the mechanic from my home, and it was FREEZING outside. I was very happy that I had gotten my heat fixed. Ten minutes into the drive and the heat hadn’t kicked in yet. I also noticed that the temperature gauge hadn’t gotten above the C but when I was stopped at a light, it started to creep up. As soon as I started driving it was back to the C. By the end of the half hour drive, the heat still hadn’t kicked in, which was definitely not normal. Even when my heat was broken, it kicked in by the 10 minute mark as long as I was in motion. I did notice that the heat seemed to get warmer at the stop lights, but I lost it as soon as I started moving. That was the opposite problem I had yesterday! The good thing was that there was no smoke or smell, but the bad thing was that I just spent a thousand dollars to get the heat fixed (and tires, I know). I told the guy what I noticed, and they said they would check it out.
I kept my fingers crossed the entire day at work. I called the mechanic at around 1 pm to see if they found anything. “Actually, the guy that was working on your car can not recreate your problem. He says the heat is working fine.” “Well, did he try it when the car was in motion? I think it works when you are stopped!” I asked. “Yes, he took it out for a drive, and he said it was very hot, but he’ll try it again.”
When work was over and I got back to the mechanic, they told me they didn’t find anything wrong. They said to try driving it again and if there was still a problem, to give them a call.
I hoped that this morning was just a fluke, but when I was driving, I again noticed inconsistencies with my heat. Sometimes it seemed hot when I was idle, sometimes it seemed cool. Sometimes it seemed hot when I started going again, then it cooled down again. The temperature gauge stayed at the C when I was driving, and creeped to a normal temperature when I was stopped in traffic. As soon as I was driving again it went back down pretty quickly.
Ugh. I called the car place the next morning and told them I would bring it in on Saturday. I decided I should be there to make sure it got fixed. I suffered in the cold for a couple of days and when Saturday rolled around, I got to the mechanics at around 9. “Hi, remember me? You guys fixed my heat earlier this week… and it’s still not working. The temperature stays at C unless I am stopped, and then it creeps up again.” He said “hmmm, that sounds like a stuck temperature gauge. That would explain your problem with the heat, and even the check engine light if there is a sensor problem. Did you tell the guys this before, or did you just notice it?” I didn’t feel like screaming, so I just said “Well, I did tell him, but maybe he misunderstood.”
“Well, we’ll take a look!” he smiled.
After waiting around for three hours, they finally gave me back the keys. “It was the temperature gauge and the sensor,” he told me, “you shouldn’t notice any problems now.” Hallelujah!
And now cut to today. I have not had any problems since Saturday, so I think this car craziness is finally over! My wallet is a lot lighter, but at least I have heat and tires. Thank goodness this is over, because I’m pretty sure I couldn’t write another word about my car.