The plan for today was to go into the city to do our monthly Costco shopping. This was after our adventures yesterday that found us in the garage, getting our thermostat changed in the van.
Everything did seem to be working, though I did have to top up the coolant after we got home, so I was really hoping we could go into the city to stock up.
Then my mother phoned.
Could I drive her into town so she could visit her sister in the nursing home?
After some back and forth-ing about when she wanted to visit, and if I could do the shopping first, then take her later, I decided to postpone the shopping. I’d take my mother to visit her sister in the morning, and do the shopping tomorrow.
However, shortly before it was time to go, my older daughter had an idea. She had intended to go into the city with me, and she suggested she still come along, then we could go to the city after bringing my mother home after her visit. After all, the town she lives in is 1/3rd of the way to to the city, anyhow.
So that’s what we decided to do.
Off we went for the 20 minute drive to my mother’s. After what happened yesterday, I was keeping a close eye on my temperature gauge.
Which was going up. Then down. Then up again.
We also had no heat.
By the time we got to my mother’s the temperature gauge was almost at the level that would trigger the alarm.
What on earth?
We were early, so rather than going right in, we popped the hood.
The coolant was low again.
I checked where the leak was, and it was damp, but it didn’t seem that we could have lost so much coolant there. There was no signs of where it went.
Then I hear my mother’s voice. She had gotten ready early and had come out when we pulled over, and was wondering what was going on.
We topped up the coolant, helped my mother into the vehicle, and started on our way to see her sister; a half hour drive from my mother’s.
As we drove, sometimes we had heat, sometimes we didn’t, and the temperature kept creeping up. We had explained to my mother a bit of what was going on, and while we were driving, she just started praying quietly!
Since we were passing them anyways, I stopped at the garage. Seeing me, the guy at the counter had a quote ready for me. He had talked to the mechanic about the leaking pipe, so he’d looked up the part and worked it out. I had thought that was what I’d already had a quote for, but he said that was for the water pump, which is loose. I told him the leak was why I was there, and described what was happening. The part I need for this leak would be shipped from another province and would take two days to arrive. I gave the go ahead to order the part. I also asked, was it possible that the thermostat was not the problem yesterday, after all, but this leak was? It’s hard to say for sure. It’s possible. *sigh*
He said he would call me when the part came in, and we were on our way.
By the time we got to the nursing home, the temperature was high again. My mother went in to visit her sister while my daughter and I topped up the coolant again. Where was it going?? We couldn’t tell. That done, we went to a coffee shop and got my daughter some breakfast and caffeine, then went to the nursing home lobby to wait for my mother. As we waited, my daughter and I decided we wouldn’t go to the city at all. Instead, after dropping my mother off, we would just buy enough necessities to last us the rest of the week at the grocery store by my Mom’s, then come home.
When she rejoined us, my mother offered to take us out for lunch, but we declined and explained why.
On the way to her town, the temperature gauge kept going up and up, until I finally pulled over, just in time for the alarm to start going off. We topped up the coolant again. We drove for a bit, but I guess we’d started too soon, and had to pull over again, this time waiting longer.
We managed to get to my mother’s place without having to pull over again. I went in with her while my daughter topped up the coolant again. By this point, we were almost out of coolant! (Thank goodness we keep bottled water in the van, which we used for the mix.)
We then drove around the block to the grocery store and picked up a few things.
As we walked back to the vehicle, which was facing away from us in the parking lot, my daughter noticed the trail of drops leading to the van – and a puddle under the rear, driver’s side.
What on earth was there to be leaking like that?
Groceries in, we drove to the gas station, a few blocks away, and picked up more coolant. Pre-mixed, this time.
As we were adding more coolant, we could see a new puddle had formed under the back. What’s going on?
We are regulars at this gas station, and a guy that normally fills our tank saw us and came over. I told him what was happening and pointed out the puddle. Sweetheart that he is, he got down on the ground to take a look.
We had a broken pipe.
I got down on the ground myself (which was much less painful than I expected, but then I was a bit distracted…) and took a look.
This is what we saw.
I didn’t even think that there would be coolant hoses to the back. But of course there would be. This vehicle has heaters in the back. I’d never had a vehicle with heaters in the back before.
So now what? Clearly, any fluid we were putting in would be pouring right out this hose once we started driving. Could we make it home?
We were going to give it a try.
We got just a few minutes out of town then the temperature got too high again and I pulled over. There was no point in adding more coolant. We weren’t going to make it home.
I called the garage, told them what was going on, and said I was going to use roadside assistance to tow the van over.
Then I called roadside assistance.
Now, usually we have CAA, but it expired and we couldn’t afford to pay for another year. When my husband saw that our Bell cell phone account had roadside assistance available, with monthly payments of only $5, he signed my number up for it; it’s tied to my cell phone number so I have coverage with any vehicle, as long as I have my phone.
The call was a disaster.
First, English was not the guy’s native language, so he had a hard time hearing and understanding me. I had to repeat my phone number. Then he tried to get my name.
First, he couldn’t spell my extremely simple first name, but that’s actually not unusual. People are always trying to change it to something else or drop what few letters it already has. My hyphenated name, however, was a different issue completely.
When he asked for it, I told him I would spell it. I got through the first half, then said “hyphen” and continued into the second half when he stopped me, in confusion. I said my name out loud, saying it was a hyphenated name, then asked him how far he got on the spelling. He had lots of letters, he told me. Lots of them. Then he started reading them out.
He got to the end of the first half of my name, then said “H”. And stopped.
I tried again, this time using a lot of “B as in Bravo, D as in Delta” as I went along. I had to tell him there was a dash in the name, because he didn’t understand hyphen.
Then he asked for my phone number.
I just gave you my phone number, I say.
I don’t have a number, he tells me.
I had to give him my cell phone number again.
Now, even before all this started, he had asked me why I needed a tow, and I told him it was because I was on the side of a highway in the middle of nowhere, bleeding coolant, and I can’t drive without killing my engine.
So at the very least, I already told him I was on a highway in the middle of nowhere.
Which made his asking what city I was in, very strange. I told him “north of…” my mother’s town. Which I had to spell. Then respell, using Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.
It’s a good thing I remember these from when my husband was in the military. Because he got it totally wrong.
Then he asked if I was in a driveway or parking spot.
No. On the side of the highway, in the middle of nowhere.
On the left or right shoulder?
Which side of the road am I on? Right or left?
That depends on what direction you’re coming from! I’m on the East side.
I don’t know East.
I finally said, if you’re coming from the south, on the right. Then I told him what highway I was on (he never asked), and between which two roads (which I had to get off of my maps app, because we weren’t actually near enough to any roads to see what the road numbers were).
During this call, I honestly wondered if he even knew what province we were in. After we moved, we never changed our numbers. My number has the prefix of our previous province.
Eventually, he got to the point of telling me the system said it would be an hour and a half for a tow truck to find us.
I lost it at that point, told him we’d figure something else out, and hung up.
I’m going to have a talk with Bell’s roadside assistance people.
I called the garage back. Told them the roadside assistance was a bust. What did they suggest?
They have their own tow truck, with an appointment at 2pm, but he could come get us right after. It was about 1:35 at the time. It would get to us around 3.
It would still take almost 1 1/2 hours, but at least we knew the driver would find us! So that’s what we did.
I really appreciated that my daughter was with me. It made the wait much more fun.
The tow truck got to us at almost exactly 3. Then we crammed into the cab with him (the middle seat was really more for a console) and off we went to the garage.
They got the van in almost right away. As it was being brought in, I talked to the guy at the counter, and he was telling me that they couldn’t do much, because the part still wouldn’t be in for 2 days.
No, I told him. That’s not where the leak is. It’s in the back. That’s when the mechanic that had worked on our van came in and concurred; the pipe leaking in the engine was just a drip. I showed them one of the pictures I’d taken, as the van was being driven onto the lift. It was not at all what they were expecting to see!
The broken pipe took less than 5 minutes to fix.
Here is the culprit.
This piece is from inside the hose, joining two lengths together. It has clearly been corroding for some time. It could have been something as simple as a rock hitting it for it to finally break completely.
Which means it may have been leaking slowly for quite a while, but not enough to be noticed. Then it got worse, until it finally broke entirely, some time while we were driving today.
This could have happened while we were on the way to the city.
Though the fix was quick, getting it going again took quite a bit longer. Once more coolant was added, they had to get the air out of the system.
And there was a LOT of air in the system.
When the mechanic saw me watching at the door, he invited me to come over (customers are not usually allowed in the work area) and we talked as he worked, with him explaining what he was doing, as well as general conversation.
They put a funnel on an extension in place of the cap, filling it with more coolant. With the engine running, you could see air bubbles coming up through the coolant. As the air went out, coolant would go in, and more would be added to the funnel. This got repeated quite a few times.
After a while, it seemed the air bubbles had stopped, but we still had no heat. There was still air locked somewhere in the system. Every now and then, he’d sit in the van and rev the engine for a while, and a few bubbles would come out, but still, no heat. He would go back to the engine, then back to the cab, back and forth.
Then, while he was revving the engine, I happened to catch it; huge bubbles coming up the funnel, to the point the coolant looked like it was boiling! Then the coolant drained into the reservoir until there was hardly any left in the funnel.
Suddenly, there was heat in the van, too.
It was done!
As they were closing things up and putting things away, they gave me one of the gallon jugs of coolant they had premixed for my van.
When it came time to pay the bill, it was just under $250 – with most of that being the cost of the tow! They didn’t charge me for all the time spent getting the air out of the system.
As I was paying for it, I told the guy at the counter that when the parts came in, they would have to wait until the end of the month. I’m done. He understood.
So the status of the van is, I do still have a leak on the engine that needs to be fixed, but it’s just a drip. I’m not going to be doing any long drives to the city, and will avoid using the van for the next while, but it’s drive-able.
No bulk grocery trip in the city this month.
Meanwhile, I’m going to have to contact my cousin. They’re saying the water pump is loose – but that’s what my cousin replaced for me, a couple of months ago.
I knew we’d have to do a lot of work on this van. Just not one right after the other like this!!
All of this would have happened at one point or another, even if we hadn’t moved and were still in the city. The big difference is, if we were living in the city, we’d still be paying housing charges at the Co-op. We would not have had the funds to do any of this work, and would have ended up without a vehicle at all.
I’m really trying to see any sort of positive in the middle of all this. 😀
Well, I guess this is going to be a very quiet – and even more frugal that usual – month for us.
Plans? What are those?