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Friday, July 25, 2008

It’s a Biggie…

It might be completely dead this time. Don’t know for sure yet.

School resumes a month from today and it’s been almost exactly one year since I hoped to get one more year out of the “school car”. The car spends most of its time parked on the side of the driveway during the summer.

Then it began last week. I noticed that the battery indicator light was on when took it out to get gas at the local Costco. It’s been sitting idle for most of the summer so maybe the battery is just weak from non use. I’ll start driving it on short trips to at least keep the battery charged. Not a biggie.

A few short out and back trips didn’t persuade “school car” to extinguish the battery indicator. Well the battery IS five years old, so maybe it’s time for a new one. Note to self: pick up new battery on next trip to Costco. No biggie.

Uh, oh! Now I have “battery” AND “anti-lock brake” indicators showing. Coincidence? Can I make it until the weekend? It still runs and the brakes still work so hopefully not too much a biggie…right?

Yesterday, I agreed to baby-sit for my grandson and there is a Costco nearby. The plan is to take “school car” and pick up a new battery on the way back. Half way to my daughter’s house I notice that I have “battery”, “anti-lock brake” and now “air bag” indicators on…

I’m thinking it’s starting to look like a biggie…

With the grandson down for a nap and the baby monitor moved to the garage, I used son-in-law’s tools to dismantle the “way too complicated” battery cover and mounting bracket to get at the battery and terminals. Topped off the water levels, tightened all the connectors and re-started the car. No change.

Leaving my daughters place, I still have all three indicators on but now the car is idling at twice the normal rate. Half way to the Costco, the turn signals stop working.

It’s a biggie!

Plans to stop at Costco are now abandoned. Now I’m hoping to just make it to the Saturn dealer a few miles further down the road before the wheels fall off.

Two miles from the dealership, the engine is racing and ALL the engine indicators are on, no turn or emergence flasher signals work and I can’t roll down the power windows to attempt hand signals to make turns.

I’m almost hit twice for changing lanes without signaling. I’m glad I can’t read lips, but I know the intent of silent shouts I see in the review mirror.

Miraculously, I make it to the dealership, coast to a stop in the service driveway and shut the engine off. Everything electrical in the car is dead. Even the dome light doesn’t come on when I open the driver’s door.

They were pushing the car into the service garage when I left. I’m tempted to just hand them the keys and walk away.

-- Sunday July 27 update --

Heard back from the Saturn dealer yesterday. The conversation was something like a bizarre automotive version of "There was an old woman who swallowed a fly"

Dealer Guy: Well, we located the problem with your car.
Me: ok...

DG: The battery is completely dead. ( original thought exactly)
Me: And?

DG: and...the cause was traced to the alternator. It's completely failed. (...good call Law and Order Teacher-- see the comments section)
Me: Anything else?

DG: Well, it appears that the power steering pump was leaking fluid onto the alternator that caused it to fail.
Me: Ouch! much is this going to cost me?

DG: Uhh...(long pause)...we have to special order the power steering pump, alternator for your model year and a new battery it's going to run...(sounds of keyboard typing in the background)...Uhh, looks like $2150. We'll need your authorization before we proceed.
Me: Uhhh...Mmmm...$2150?...Uhhh...That's more than the car is worth!...Uhhh....ok?

So now the car is running again. My wallet is much lighter. Now I have to wonder if this is the end of major repairs for a while or just the start of a never ending litany of unknown problems to come.

(BTW: We looked at a Toyota Yaris while we were in the neighborhood)


The Vegas Art Guy said...

I hope you're able to get that last year out of the Saturn. You're lucky batteries last so long there. In Vegas you're lucky to get 3 years out of them.

Law and Order Teacher said...

What if its just an alternator. I've had that happen and it looked like you described. Here's hoping that you will get it fixed.

Sladed said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting on my father's Alzheimer's and what my mom is dealing with. He is about to be taken in to a mental facility in a sort of last gasp to see if they can medicate him and reset his behavior. It's funny that you have titled this post It's a Biggie and another recent one Pull My Finger. Both were part of my father's repertoir of sayings.

Good luck with the car.