188,815 Miles

File Jan 12, 21 15 32

Nothing tops off a long day at the office more than having your dashboard light up like a Christmas tree with all of those blinkedy blinkedy red warning nights, accompanied by the blingedy blingedy sound of the really urgent, loud, “you’re in deep shit now” bells and buzzers.

It makes me think that this might not be one of the cheap repairs. Shit, and I just put a full tank of gas into it yesterday!

We had been talking about going out looking for a new car anyway. If I had gotten one of those jobs that involved a two-hour commute each way it would have been critical and would have had to happen immediately. But I got the job that’s a twelve-minute commute away, so it wasn’t critical.

Now, that might be what we do on Sunday.

The good news is that it didn’t happen miles and miles away. I could have been in one of those two-hour commutes and fifty miles away, out on the freeway. (Been there, done that, not nearly as much fun as it sounds.) I could have been going out to the hangar, thirty-five miles away. It could have happened in heavy traffic. It could have happened while I was driving at “maximum freeway speed.” It could have happened with a car full of people, or one of my kids or The Long-Suffering Wife driving. It could have happened back when I was still job hunting and didn’t have a paycheck.

Lots of bad things that “could have happened.”

But I was alone, two miles from home, at 35 mph, and I was able to risk ignoring all of the blinkedy and blingedy and get it back into the driveway.

Apparently some cooling system problem – I first noticed that I wasn’t getting any heat even though I had been driving for five minutes, and at 48° F that’s an issue. What next caught my eye was the temperature gauge, up there where I’ve never seen it before.

I fiddled with the heating controls and the temp dropped back down to normal – for about ten seconds. It then almost instantly pegged high, along with the aforementioned blinkedy and blingedy. I was by that time about a mile and a half from home with green lights ahead of me.

I thought about just parking it, but that particular stretch of road is narrower and all marked “No Stopping Any Time.” I understand that this would have been an exception. But it still would have been blocking a lane and potentially dangerous. So I put my faith in the probability of significant safety margins built into the system and kept going. By the time I got to where I could pull off into a shopping center parking lot, I was only a half-mile out. What the hell? Go for it.

In the driveway I shut it down fast, then hopped out to see if there were any other side effects going on. Like, oh, say…fire!” Nope, seems all good. Not even any odd smells. I passed on the opportunity to pop the hood and see if the engine block was actually glowing in the visible spectrum.

I’ve gone back out now after it’s cooled down and checked for a second to see if it will start. It did. I did not see any oil running down the runway underneath, nor did I get any oil pressure warning lights while driving. So at least I didn’t apparently crack the engine block or have a piston seize or throw a rod.

When I get a chance I’ll check to see if there’s fluid in the radiator. Maybe there was just a cracked hose. Or a crack in the radiator at worst. Maybe it’s just a stuck thermostat, or something that’s gotten jammed in the controls that shunt fluids back and forth to the heater.

Maybe this will be just a $500 fix. Or $800. Or $1,200.

Or maybe it’s time to take $2,000 and put it down on a new car instead of trying to resurrect an otherwise perfectly good vehicle that already has 188,815 miles on it.

On a side note, this being an adult thing really sucks sometimes.

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