The First time is always the hardest…

So, today, the car was at home since my mom was getting a ride into work from her office’s manager (the ploy being that they weren’t going to allow her to make an excuse to get out of an after-work function that is happening at someone’s house). She called me around midday and asked if I had gone out for a spin. Really, I was considering heading out just on a drive into town and back, but hadn’t gone out to do it by the time she had called.

A couple hours later, I put on my shoes, a sweatshirt, grabbed my keys, phone and wallet, and headed out to go for a drive. The first thing I should have known to do was to let the car warm up for a good 10-15 minutes. However, I had heard once that the best way to get a car warmed up was to just go out and start out driving, so I did just that. Everything started out well, and I went out to the highway at a somewhat slow pace – around 25 miles per hour (mostly due to the snowy roads we still have in this area). Once out on the highway, I allowed myself to get up to the speed limit – 55 mph. After a couple more speed changes, we got to a light.

Now, there is an interesting problem that has been going on with the car for quite some time now – it’s an intermittent problem, and one that we are uncertain how to get fixed without it costing a lot of money. From time to time, when you stop the car, it will just die. Normally, after restarting it and revving the engine up to around 4,000 RPM (for some reason my mom has this idea in her mind that if you go over 3000 you can cause this problem to crop up – I’m not certain of that, but I do pay attention to be sure that I don’t go over 3000 too often), the engine will stabilize and you can go on your way.

When I saw that this might be beginning to start happening (the telltale sign of that is when the engine goes below about 700 RPM), I put the hazard flashers on to notify the traffic behind me that I was having an issue and to go around – they didn’t go around, and fortunately, they didn’t go into the right lane once past the intersection, so I did. My only thought at this point was that I needed to get the car to a safe spot, away from the main roads so that I could try to get the engine to stabilize, which it hadn’t done yet. I chose to go around to a road that is fairly secluded in my town – I saw maybe two other cars, but they were both heading out of that immediate area.

I got the car stopped, put it into park, and decided that I would try the accelerate method, and then I tried out a new method – holding the power somewhat steady around 1000 RPM, which is around the idle point for the car. While I was doing this, I rang up my mom at her work, and told her what had happened, and she said that the important thing was to get home, and to call when I did. So, I went ahead and moved out; here is where the interesting bit of the story begins. I went out and turned to the right at the main road because I knew that I would be accelerating slower than normal, so I did just that.

When I got to the main intersection (with another stoplight), it was red, so I decided to head around the community parking lot that is right there. As I got halfway into the parking lot, I felt the steering wheel slow way up on me and the engine died out again. My next decision was to just park the car right in one of the stalls and try to get the stabilization going again, which didn’t quite work again. I had enough and just wanted to get back to the house at this point. I went out of the parking lot to the north, drove up to a small residential street that ends in a cul-de-sac and looped around it to head back through town and back towards home.

I had to stop at the stoplights but only for a few seconds, as I was turning left and we had a protected turn light. Then I went through the school zone – although I didn’t see any kids, I decided to play it safe and go 15 MPH as it was close to dismissal time for the schools anyway. After going through town, I had to go through the first stoplight once more. Normally, it doesn’t stay green for the direction I was going for very long – I really lucked out this time, though, as I managed to get through the light and just as I had gotten to the other side of the road, it turned yellow. For the next 30 seconds, the only thing I was saying was “Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you” for not having to stop at the light.

At long last, I was on the final stretch to the house – I had to do a couple of more turns and turn into the driveway, but it all went fine, and the engine stopped right when I got to the right spot on the driveway. However, I decided to try to get the engine stable once more by accelerating to around 4500 RPM. The next thing I knew the Check Engine light was on – now, a little secret about the car that we have had is that when the engine light comes on and is stable, generally it’s ok to drive, if it’s flashing, then you’re in deep trouble, apparently.

I get in the house, call down to my mom and mention that I made it home and that the check engine light came on – I made sure to say that it was stable. However, now it seems that we’re going to have to take it to the garage to get this sorted out (it also needs an oil change anyway).

Fortunately, I do know my way around the area so that I can manage to get out of jams like this safely, depending on the lights… 😉