Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Car Problems = Ruined Day

On Monday our van started acting up. The engine stalled and skipped when we accelerated. I found that when I drove like my wife (slow acceleration from a stop, keeping under the speed limit, no pedal-to-the-metal gassing) it seemed to run fine, but as soon as I had to gas it harder than a tap it skipped and sometimes stalled.

Last night I decided to test it out and drive out to get the mail (yes- we sometimes drive to our mailbox 1/10 of a mile from our front door). The way I typically do this is to pull out to the left into the oncoming traffic lane, back up 10 feet, and lean out the driver side door and reach into the mailbox while sitting in the wrong lane. There is usually not a problem doing this as there is a hill some distance away and if you do this while no traffic can be seen there is enough time to pull off the maneuver, get the mail, and head back home.

Last night all went well until I backed up to the mailbox, at 8PM in the pitch dark, and the van died. Didn’t stall or skip- it died.

I turned the bright lights on, flipped on the emergency flashers, and tried to repeatedly start it up again. The engine tried, but wouldn’t turn over and start. After a couple minutes of trying this while also going through a plan in my head of how and when to dive out of the car if an oncoming truck came over the hill doing 70MPH (not uncommon) and couldn’t get over due to oncoming traffic in the correct lane, I decided to try to push the van into the driveway.

I got out with the van in neutral, and tried to push. I quickly jumped back in to apply the brake when I realized there was no way I could do it alone. This was very clear to me because the van started to drift backwards towards the 3 foot drop-off on the side of the road and I couldn’t stop it.

I sat there dumbfounded with absolutely no plan whatsoever. Fortunately on the 100th try or so the engine started. I drove back home and Michelle and I made plans on getting the van to the shop today.

Got it there about 9AM, got a shuttle ride home from a nice guy named Sean (Michelle drove my truck to R’s pre-school- she volunteered to help at school today) and waited for the bad news.

Apparently our battery is leaking acid, which has burned through several wires in the wire-harness- one of them the controller to the accelerator. Cost? $2,100. We opted for the cheap fix: hand repairing the specific wires damaged with fresh electrical wire and electricians tape. Plus a new battery. Only $350.

Lovely day.

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Liza on Maui said...

Oh, car trouble. I had my share last month - and blogged about it too :)

I'n glad the cost was reduced from $2k TO $350 :)

DigitalRich said...

I remember- I read it. My wife REALLY helped out. After I wrote this post, the next morning, she recalled we had bought the leaky battery at the same place we were having the work done- in August 2005. She suggested I argue that they should pick up the repair cost, or at least give us a new battery free for the trouble. She also suggested we get them to pay for the full repair including the new wiring harness ($1700).

When I picked it up the next day I made the argument, turns out the battery had an 18 month warranty, and we bought it 17 months ago! They took $100 off the total, but wouldn’t cover the labor for re-wiring or pay for the new wiring harness. They suggested I call the battery manufacture to make a claim on the needed repairs. We shall see.

Way to go Michelle!


Anonymous said...

This year, I started setting a budget for my car maintenance. After last year incident, when my niece borrowed my car and later that night we found it on a garage. The car had a major auto body parts replacement from a crashed. Since then, my car is having much car problems. I'm planning to scrap it for good though.