Friday, June 25, 2010
My baby is sick!
We two have become quite the icon in our neighborhoods, both at home in AF and in Provo. Ever since I was blessed with her two years ago, she has become my identifying symbol. People at school or church are constantly saying, "I saw you in your yellow car driving by, or at such and such a place." Two days ago even at work there was a kid who recognized me as "The Girl who won the car." Now, after all the good times we've had together, crisis has struck.
Three weeks ago, I was driving to work, and just as I was pulling into the lot where I normally park, the engine stalled and refused to start back up. Great! I am already late and now I have coasted to a stop right in the middle of the parking garage, in everyone's way and just shy of a spot. Luckily, someone was driving by and helped me push it out of the way, halfway between a regular spot and a service spot. Hoping I wouldn't get a huge fine, I ran off to work and hoped things would work out when I got back. They didn't. The poor thing was still stranded there, refusing to start. Luckily though, I didn't seem to have a fine for being kind of in the service-vehicle-only spot. I tried to contact some people to help me try to jump it, but to no avail. I walked home, feeling like a cat abandoning her kitten to the elements.
The next day, my dad came to help. Jumper cables: fail. Battery tested at Checker: only taking half charge, could be the problem. New battery: $84.99 - fail. We are out of ideas. The next thing we could think of is that there is something clogging the fuel filter so we aren't getting fuel to the engine. We can't do anything more where we are, so we begin the tense task of towing it back to AF. I have never done that before and I must say, it was quite the experience. As dad was linking the cars together with the tow rope he brought, he explained to me that he would be the gas, I would be the brake. My brakes have been complaining rather noisily of late and I thought in my head, "Uh oh, I wonder if they can handle it. Couldn't I be the gas and you be the brake... oh wait..." So one and a half slow, white-knuckled hours later, we had arrived and were ready for the next treatment option.
Dad found a mechanic who was willing to make a house call and his diagnosis to the malady could be a faulty sensor in the engine, the camshaft sensor (I'm not sure what it does exactly). We ordered the part: $140, nonreturnable - fail! We are at our wits' end, and nearly our wallet's. After another inspection, diagnosis #2 was a worn out timing belt. This is bad. This is a routine tune up that is supposed to be done at 100,000 miles and for some reason, both dad & I thought it had been done. Nope, we were wrong.
For those of you unfamiliar with how an engine works, I will explain. I found it fascinating to learn. Inside the engine there are cylinders (mine happens to have four). Inside the cylinders are pistons attached to the crankshaft that turns your wheels, makes the car go. At the top of the cylinder is a valve that lets fuel in which, combined with the fire from the spark plug, causes an explosion that pushes the piston down, turning the crankshaft. There is a gear connected to all the valves and another connected to the pistons. These two gears are connected by the timing belt, which ensures that the valves open when the pistons are down & close when the piston comes back up so that they don't hit each other. There, now you know how it works.
The bad news is that because the timing belt seems to have worn out while the engine was running, the timing may have gotten off in the momentum after it stalled, meaning that the pistons could have potentially hit and bent the valves. If that is the case, changing the belt will not help much and it will take roughly $1800 for a valve job. That was not an option. However, I was not going very fast when I stalled, so there wasn't much time for it to get out of timing. Plus, I would think that if something is hitting something else in my engine hard enough to damage it, I would have heard something. I did not, so I decided to take the risk & gamble the $350 to change the belt (and the water pump, as it is normally recommended to change both at the same time). That has been done and she started! However, we aren't completely out of the woods yet, because after the mechanic left, my parents took it around the block to make sure she sounds ok and everything. I've had to work everyday in Provo, otherwise I would have done it. As they were driving it around, it stalled every time they slowed down or stopped. That was a little disconcerting, so the mechanic was called back. He drove it, and it didn't stall at all. Then my mom drove it to Walmart and it stalled as she was turning a corner, but only on the way there. So the conclusion is that we won't know until I drive it and see what happens, as I am the normal partner in travel. Hopefully all goes well and we can cruise the highways together once again.