I had van problems on April 1st, and it was no April Fools’ joke. Unfortunately, the problems went on well into the first week of the month.
The Man had already done a full brake job–front and back–and it was no easy task. The front brakes were pretty simple, but those back drum brakes–Lord! The brakes were done, and now he just had to stop the coolant leak in the front.
The coolant leak had started a week or so before. I’d driven the van to the laundry room. When I returned home, The Man asked, What’s that? while pointing to the liquid dripping into the dirt. We thought the lower radiator hose was loose, so he tightened the hell out of it and called it good. I drove the ten miles to town to run a few errands and didn’t see any leak, However, when I got home, fluid was dripping from under the van at a quick and steady rate. Don’t worry, The Man said. We’ll get a new hose. I’ll put it on for you.
We got the hose, but with one thing and another, it was nearly a week before The Man installed it.
First came the brake jobs–first one on my van, then the back brakes on The Man’s minivan. The Man had never replaced back brakes before. I never had either. He watched videos on YouTube. He took photos of the brakes before he took them apart. Still, the job was a challenge, and there was a learning curve to get past. I was impressed by his perseverance and attention to detail, but I was ready for the whole brake experience to be over. I know The Man felt the same way.
We thought he was finished with my brakes, but after spending all day working on his and learning a couple of new drum brake replacement tricks from videos, he decided my brakes needed more adjustment. He said he’d do the brake adjustment after he got the new hose on.
He got under the van and used brute force to tighten the new hose. We drove down to a friend’s house to pick up a mattress she was giving me. When we got to her place (less than half a mile away), we saw fluid coming out from under the van. The Man was mystified; he thought he’d tightened the hose pretty good. I drove the van back home and we let it cool before The Man crawled back under the van. There was more tightening, some coolant in The Man’s eye (no damage, thank goodness!), frustration. Finally, he got the hose clamps even tighter. Hopefully the problem was solved.
We loaded our big garbage can into the van so we could dump it while we were driving around waiting for the engine to heat up. We deposited the trash in a dumpster, then drove back home. Fluid was still dripping from underneath the van. I think it’s gotten worse, I said.
By that time, the sun was almost down, and The Man shook his head. He was tired, but the real problem was getting his big hand into the appropriate small space. He couldn’t get the leverage he needed. He needed an extender for the ratchet he was using. We’d have to go to town the next day to get one.
Normally it wouldn’t have been a problem to finish tomorrow what we hadn’t completed today, but I was supposed to leave on a road trip on April 1st. I was supposed to meet The Lady of the House that very afternoon and start the next day on an epic two week adventure. I was disappointed, but not devastated. I’d have to drive a couple of hours longer than planned the next day, but we could still get where we needed to go when we needed to be there. We’ll have you on the road tomorrow by noon, The Man told me.
On Monday we drove to town in The Man’s minivan and paid too much for a set of ratchet extenders, even though we only needed one. We didn’t have any options in that small desert town. We drove home, and The Man got under my van again. He used the ratchet on the extender and all of his power to tighten the clamps on the hose. He was confident the problem had been solved.
Drive the van until you get it up to temperature, he told me. Don’t stop anywhere.
I did as instructed. He was waiting for me when I pulled into the driveway. I saw him glance at the ground, and I saw his face fall. I jumped out of the van. Coolant was dripping heavy and steady from under the van.
It must be the water pump, The Man said. He looked as demoralized as I felt.
I called the auto repair shop in the closest town and explained my situation. When I told the owner of the place the make and model of my van, he said he’d changed water pumps on those vehicles before: It’s a pain in the ass, to put it mildly. He told me he had the water pump my van needed in stock and quoted me a price. I told him I’d get back to him.
I got off the phone and gave The Man the news. He said he’d never changed a water pump and it might take him three days to do it. He said he didn’t really want to do the job. I totally understood. He was already burnt out on automotive repair, and I didn’t want to wait three days for him to get the new pump put in. I wanted to be on the road ASAP.
I called the repair shop and told the owner I wanted him to make the repairs. I asked him if he thought I could drive the van slowly and make it the dozen or so miles to his shop. He said I could try driving it if I wanted to. If you burn up your engine, he told me, I’ll sell you a new engine. I told him I’d get it towed.
I have my auto insurance with Progressive. For a small fee, I have roadside assistance coverage. With that coverage, I can get locksmith services if I lock my keys in the van, I can get a flat rire replaced with my spare, and I can ge the van towed within 15 miles of its broke down location. So I called Progressive roadside assistance and told the friendly representative where I was and where I needed to go. She told me she’d text me the name of the company that would provide the tow and the truck’s ETA.
I waited an hour, and no text came. I called the Progressive roadside assistance toll free number and spoke to a differnt representative who told me the first representative was still working on my case and would send the text in the next ten to twelve minutes. I said thanks and we ended the call. An hour later I still hadn’t received a text, so I called again and reached a woman who said she’d figure out what was going on and call me back.
She called me back within ten minutes. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to accept the call on my new phone. I got three calls within as many minutes, but I couldn’t answer the phone.
I called Progressive again and the representative transfered me to a supervisior who’d been working on my case. He said because of my remote location, they were haing trouble getting a tow truck out to me. He said only one company in town would take the call, the boss was at lunch, and the driver couldn’t leave!
I don’t blame the roadside assitance people for the delay. I was certainly in a remote location. There may have only been one tow truck in the whole town. I just wish the second representative I talked to had figured out what was going on and given me an honest assement of the facts.
Finally, the tow truck arrived and loaded my van. The Man drove his minivan behind the truck, and I watched my van make its slow way into town.
This is an epic tale! I’ll share the rest of the story tomorrow.