On a Personal Note 7: Cat Flag’s Automotive Misadventure

Highway image by Arcibel

I know it sounds cliché to say that you only truly appreciate what you have when you lose it. However, this past week, I have very much learned this lesson the hard way. I hadn’t realized just how much I depend on the convenience of my own set of wheels the until my truck broke down. More than 150 miles from home. With such extensive damage it needed a whole new engine.

Basically, this was me

Basically, this was me

Let me start at the beginning. I had to travel to Thousand Oaks last Tuesday. Most of the trip was pretty uneventful, apart from a traffic jam in Santa Barbara and another in Ventura. I didn’t really mind the traffic jams that much, either; I listened to the radio and enjoyed the beautiful, sunny ocean views. When I got to Camarillo, though, my truck started shaking. I assumed it was just the highway, but as I kept driving the shaking got worse. I was so close to my destination, I decided to just say a prayer of safety and try to make it the few more miles to Thousand Oaks.

Luckily, I made it, and I sighed a breath of relief. But it wasn’t long before it came time for me to head back home. Again, my truck was shaking, and it was not changing gear correctly. Then I noticed that the truck was experiencing a drop in oil pressure. This was not good, I thought. I decided that at the next exit with a gas station, I would pull over and see if I could figure out what was wrong, and if it needed to be towed to a mechanic’s.

I didn’t make it.

I was on the off-ramp, mere feet from the intersection, trying to pull over, when the entire car just died and froze up. It was just about the scariest thing I had ever experienced – I couldn’t even coast to the side of the road, the wheels were locked up, the engine and the electrical had both shut off, and I was well and truly stuck. I was now an obstruction to traffic in the middle of the road, with no way to get out of people’s way. I had to call 9-1-1.

Can you, like, magically teleport here this instant? No?

Can you, like, magically teleport here this instant? No?

I explained my situation to the dispatcher, and she sent a highway patrol officer to help me. I stood on the side of the road, away from traffic, and motioned for cars trying to use the on-ramp that they would have to go around me. I didn’t want them to be stuck behind me for who-knew-how-long. I was probably only stuck there for five minutes, but it sure felt like an hour. At last, the policeman came, had me put my truck in neutral, and used his police car to push my truck through the intersection to a nearby gas station.

Miracle of miracles, that gas station happened to pull double-duty as an auto repair shop. I walked up to them, explained my situation, and asked them to figure out what was wrong. Two hours and $95 later, and it turned out that the mechanic had found oil pooled at the bottom of the engine. With a bunch of tiny metal flakes in it. This was not good.

At this point, I had some choices to make. Should I scrap the truck and get a new one? Should I try to fix it? What could I actually afford to do? Thank the Lord for smartphones and Verizon 4G LTE; after calling my very patient and understanding father and asking him to pick me up and take me home, I started doing some research online to figure out which course of action would be best. Eventually, I settled on towing my truck back home and replacing its engine. Replacing an engine is very expensive, but by my calculations, doing so was cheaper in my case than trying to find a new vehicle.

The good news: There are plenty of places you can find online that will transport your vehicle long distances, and some of them are even (relatively) affordable.

The bad news: Once you get a free quote from each of them, they will hound your e-mail and phone for more than a week begging you to use their service.

At the end of the day, I didn’t go with any of them. There’s a mechanic in my hometown who had worked on my truck before who offered to tow it himself. I admit it, I was impressed that he would do that. He also gave me a good deal on replacing the engine. Knowing how much the darn engine costs, I could use any savings I could find. Even with the discounts he gave me, this repair will still end up sending me back more than $3,000!

Engines are expensive.

Like I said, engines are expensive.

Not only that, but replacing the engine is a huge job, taking about 18 hours to complete, which means I am without a vehicle all week while I wait, patiently, for this job to be completed. I have to walk to work, walk to the grocery store, and walk to – pretty much anywhere. Unless I am able to get a ride from someone, which usually means that he or she is going the same place I am. It’s all very inconvenient. I have to plan out every errand, setting aside enough time to walk to where I need to go and walk back. I have been managing so far, but I miss my truck. I will be glad when I finally get it back.

By the way, the problem that killed my engine? A spun bearing. In other words, a small, cheap metal piece wore out enough to come loose and damage the rest of the motor. What a mess.

In conclusion, keep up with your car’s maintenance needs. You never know when a small problem can become a disaster.

One Response to On a Personal Note 7: Cat Flag’s Automotive Misadventure

  1. Pingback: Lessons I Learned Spending One Month Without A Vehicle | Cat Flag

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