Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Can My Van Really Hate Me?

My van hates the winter. It honestly wishes it could live in a warm place and all winter long it temps me to sell it to someone who would let it live out it’s days in a nice warm climate.

Too bad that’s not going to happen. But now, because it is trying so hard, I am having heart attacks every time any kind of light comes on. I nearly drove off the road when my windshield wiper fluid light came on. And I was shaking for about ten minutes after the gas light flashed the other day.

Here’s why.

It’s a very cold Sunday morning. Heidi has a play date with a friend of hers in North East Minneapolis.

We neglect to start the van as we are running a bit late so we bundle up, jump in the van and head toward the highway.

I am entering the highway and start to fiddle with the heater because even if I didn’t warm it up, I should be getting some kind of warm air about now. Not this arctic blast that is shooting from every vent, even the ones that seem to be turned off.

We are crossing the river as the battery light flashes at me. Weird, that’s never happened before. Mental note to tell Shawn.

We make it past the next exit, one more to go before we leave the highway, when the battery light flashes again, the temp gauge is buried on high, and the temp light is ding, ding, dinging in a total panic.

Heidi says, “What’s going on!!”

I say, “Well, it appears the car is over heating, we need to stop as soon as we can, I think we can make it down this exit into a gas station so we are in a safe place.”

I am as calm as can be on the outside but on the inside my brain is conjuring up images of Heidi and I stranded on the side of the highway in extremely cold weather. In my brain, I do something really stupid like remove the radiator cap and get burned by the molten lava that shoots out.

I scramble to grab my phone, because in my head, I think that I need to call Shawn RIGHT NOW! I cannot wait until we park and are safe, I MUST CALL NOW! But I am wearing mittens so the touch screen on my Smart Phone is not responding correctly. I end up prank calling his class room three times before I throw my phone in the seat.

As I exit the highway and head down the ramp, I engage my break and the world is right again. The beeping stops, the temp gauge heads down to middle, hot air is blowing out of my heater vents, and my ability to think rationally has returned.

I pull into the gas station and with the car still running (I am so afraid if I turn it off we will be stuck here, but we are walking distance from Super Target so that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, in hindsight…) I remove my mitten and call Shawn.

He tells me to take Heidi to her friend’s house and then come straight home. I did as I was told and made it just fine. The coolant was low but it’s been worse. Shawn thinks maybe the thermostat is a little sticky.

I think the van is trying to kill me.

Only time will tell us who is right.

One day last week, it was very, very cold out.  I think it might have been Tuesday.  I did let the van heat up for about 10 minutes.  The temp gauge was at medium but it was colder inside the van then outside since the heat was blowing out like an air conditioner the entire time.  I knew that was bad but I had to drive it anyway.  I told Heidi to keep her hat and mittens on and hope we make it at least to Daddy's work.

By the time we got to the highway, about a mile from my house, hot air was blowing from the vents and the temp gauge was making it's decent. 

Then yesterday the same thing happened.  Only this time, we got down on the highway only to have it over heat by the first exit.  I calmly told Heidi we were pulling over as soon as we could and exited the highway.  I kept hoping it would get it's act together as soon as we slowed down but no luck. 

We carefully cut off three different cars as pulled into the Caribou Corporate Headquarters parking lot.  This time I was much more level headed but I also knew we were in trouble.  I turned off the van and called Shawn on his classroom phone to tell him what was going on.

We decided to let it cool down for a bit and then try to make it the two miles to his work where I would park the van and pick up the truck.  Heidi and I went into the Caribou Coffee store and had a coffee and hot chocolate.  After I made a few phone calls, we played a game of Mancala and then went out to check on the van.

Now remember, it was -6 degrees Fahrenheit during the morning commute on Monday.  The van sat in that parking lot for over 20 minutes.  When I turned it on, it was still at medium heat!

We pealed out of the parking lot, cut off many more drivers and made it two more exits up the highway.  We were just blocks from Shawn's school when I had to turn the car off again.  Heidi and I were freezing but the van was begging to be shut off so we pulled over to the side of the road and let it rest for about two minutes.  Then I decided, we are no more than three blocks from where we need to be, it's not smoking or steaming, so we are just going to go for it. 

I turn the engine over and drive as quickly and carefully as possible to the parking lot.  All the while I am thinking of what I will tell the cop when he pulls me over.  Would he let me out of the speeding in a school zone ticket?  I was being VERY careful.

As I pulled into the parking lot I started to hear a whap, whap, whap noise.  I found the first parking spot and turn the van off.  That's it.  The Van won.

We were able to thaw out once we got in the truck but Heidi was 40 minutes late to school and not at all happy about it.  And I got to my desk two hours after we left the driveway.

I keep telling myself - it could have been worse.  We could have been stuck on the highway, not at a Caribou Coffee.  I could have a husband who didn't know how to help, but I don't.  We were a little cold, but we had our ski jackets, hats, and mittens on so we were not going to succumb to exposure.  And in the worst situation, we could always call a tow truck because we have a cell phone.

The Van might have won today but it will be fixed and it will stay in our family.  It is not getting shipped off to a warm pasture to live out it's life.  That's not happening.  At least not this year.


Anonymous said...

You are right, it could have been much worse. Did you get it fixed?

Kara said...

Yep! It was fixed by the time I got home from work that same night and now it runs like a charm. My husband is the best :)