I have been feeling a little stressed over the past few weeks. Some of it is normal holiday stuff, like hosting Thanksgiving at our place. Much of the stress has been car related. Just before Thanksgiving both of our cars broke down at the same time.
Two Cars Down = No Transportation
Dream’s car broke down on a Saturday as we were headed to Outback Steakhouse to enjoy a nice dinner paid for by a gift card we had received from a friend. During the drive we smelled something stinky. We both have a pet peeve about stinky cars, we call them stinkholes, and we hate getting stuck behind them. I zipped around the car I suspected as being stinky, and the smell didn’t go away. As I slowed for an upcoming traffic light, I saw some smoke rising from our hood. I realized I was the stinky one and quickly pulled over to investigate.
I saw some coolant running out of the overflow for the radiator. I checked the temp gauge and saw that the car was indeed running hot. I pulled off the street and into a parking lot. Determining that we shouldn’t drive it any further, we altered our dinner plans to eat at the Zaxbys across the street and called Dream’s father for a ride home.
It was getting late so I decided to wait until morning to get it towed to our mechanic. Sunday morning I drove my Jeep to meet the tow truck driver. We have AAA so the tow is included in our membership. The driver arrived within 45 minutes and we got her car towed to the mechanic.
On Monday morning I went out to start my Jeep and nothing happened. I turned the key and got nothing but a clicking sound. I thought it might be a dead battery as I had to get jump started a week before when I had left the dome light on overnight. Since Dream’s car was still in the shop that left us without a vehicle.
On top of all that, my bike had gotten another flat tire, the second in the same week. That really left us without transportation. Dream doesn’t work on Mondays and I was able to work from home. After work Dream’s father came over and we tried to jump start the Jeep. No dice, it wouldn’t start even with a jump.
I figured it was likely the starter. Dream’s father drives a work van for his job, so he let us borrow his pickup truck so I could get to the auto parts store in the morning. I decided to take a vacation day on Tuesday to take care of the Jeep.
It ended up being a dead starter. Luckily this is an easy item to replace on the Jeep, so I did it myself. Cost was $140 for the starter and about 45 minutes of my time. It was a relief to have at least one vehicle running again.
Meanwhile Dream’s car problems were diagnosed and repairs started. The overheating problem ended up being a failed water pump, which on this car, is behind the timing belt cover and very difficult to get to. The stinky smell was an idler pulley on the timing belt that froze up and nearly shredded the timing belt. We were lucky the timing belt didn’t break. I’m not sure if the water pump caused this or if we were just lucky that it happened at the same time. The end result was $1200 in parts and labor.
Every month we set aside $200 into a savings account we deemed as our new car fund. We know her car will need to be replaced eventually, so we’re trying to save up so we can pay with cash. We had to take money from the new car fund to pay for our existing car troubles. While it’s disappointing to have to use money from that account, I’m glad that we had the money available to use.
By the Wednesday before Thanksgiving we had both cars operational and were able to get our food shopping done before the big day. Hosting Thanksgiving went well as I discussed in this post.
On the Monday after Thanksgiving I was thinking about bicycle commuting. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep doing it. The colder weather put a damper on the fun factor and the time savings from driving gave me an extra 40 minutes in the evenings.
If you’ve been following me here for a while you might remember when I was considering selling the house and moving closer to work I put the question out to the universe and looked for signs. On the day I asked the question and drove home pondering it, traffic came to a halt on the Interstate. There was a huge accident that shut down the entire road, and it took me three hours to get home. Signs don’t get much clearer than that.
As I was considering giving up the bike commute, I started the drive home. On my short 15 minute (by car) commute home, a bad accident had shut down the entire road. I detoured but traffic was really bad on the detour due to the main route being shut down. I was on track to get home in about an hour when my Jeep stalled in traffic. I GET IT! I got the sign with the road closure I didn’t need the break down on top of that!
Fate smiled on me ever so slightly as I broke down in front of a Ford dealership and they were nice enough to scan the engine codes at no cost. The codes revealed a bad Crank Position Sensor. I briefly considering having the Ford dealership fix it, but I figured the cost would be too high and instead opted to get it towed to our usual mechanic. If you’re keeping track, that’s three breakdowns and two tows within the span of two weeks.
While the Jeep was in the shop I asked them to take care of an oil leak also, which they determined was due to the oil pan gasket needing to be replaced. The total for the Crank Position Sensor and the Oil Pan Gasket came to just over $500.
That’s $1845 in car repairs for the month. On the bright side of things, we had money to cover it, and everything is running good now.
All Signs Point to Bike Commute
After signs clearly pointing towards getting back to commuting by bicycle, I needed to fix my flat tire. I have gotten entirely too many flat tires in the past six months, so something had to be done. I attempted to remedy this a few months ago by adding some puncture resistant strips. The strips go between the tire and the tube. Even with these I was still getting flats.
I decided it was time to bite the bullet and order some puncture resistant tires. I did my research and settled on Continental Gatorskins. Amazon had them in the size I needed for $40 each. I also ordered some better tubes and a new bike pump.
The tubes I had been using were ones the bike shop gave me for free if I paid for the labor to change them. I suspect the cheap tubes may have contributed to the high number of flats, so I upgraded to some Michelin tubes that had good reviews on Amazon.
For airing up my tires I had been relying on an air pump plugged into my Jeep. This was a bit of a hassle to use so I decided to by a bike specific floor pump. The new pump is much more convenient and I find I’m already using it more to keep my tires at optimum pressure.
I also decided it was time to eliminate bike shop labor from the equation, and I replaced the tubes and tires myself. It was really easy with the small plastic tire tool that I picked up at Target.
The new Gatorskin tires are road tires, which basically have no tread at all. My old tires were more of an all-purpose tire with an all-purpose tread. I am astounded at the difference. The new tires make the bike ride much, much faster.
The new tires really brought the joy back to riding. I no longer feel like I’m slugging along. Instead I’m whisking along at a rapid pace. I had no idea tire choice could make that much difference. Faster and puncture resistant, I’m a happy camper now.
It’s been a stressful few weeks, but I think I’m back on track now.
I hope things have been better, less stressful, and less costly in your life as of late. Thank you to those of you that shared your funny Christmas tree stories in the last post, it really helped brighten my day.