Sunday, July 12, 2009

Radiator HELL & Cheap Chemical Peels

For those of you who have been reading my blog regularly, you know about my love/mostly HATE relationship with my pimpmobile a.k.a. mode of transportation. (see March 11 post on Cars & Life Lessons--Humility & Non-Attachment) You might also know that demons regularly possess most inanimate objects in my life. (see March 12 post on evil all around us)

I left the bucolic paradise of Southold, NY (on the Long Island sound)  at the unseemly hour of noon. It was a perfect day--sunny, slight breeze, beach and waves beckoning me to spend the day lounging. However, I promised my husband that I'd be home by 5pm. So I missed out on the PERFECT day in order to miss the gridlock traffic on the LIE, Southern Parkway, Belt Parkway & NJ Turnpike. 

On the Belt Parkway during a scenic tour of backed-up traffic, I noticed a light on the dashboard. CHECK THE GAGE. What gage? Don't they mean gauge? It seems to me that the car manufacturer could be a bit MORE specific when giving directives. I did figure out that they were referring to the TEMPERATURE gauge which seemed to be pointing in the red zone. Even I know that the red zone is BAD. However when I was cruising at 70mph, the arrow was in the SAFE zone. What does it mean to have it waffle back and worth between danger and safety? What should I do? 

Flashback to the time when the Land Rover engine caught fire and burned. I didn't get a friendly reminder sign that told me my car was about to combust. I did not want to get stuck on the Jersey turnpike with a smoking car. I pull into the next rest area. (I don't know why they call them rest areas. They are anything BUT restful. You have to wait in line for an hour for gas and starbucks. But I digress....)

I go into the mart, tell the guy that my engine overheated and inquire about coolant. He tells me not to open the hood that the steam will burn my face. You must wait, he says. For how long? 15 minutes, 30 minutes? Until the car is cool. I am not very good at waiting. However I do not relish the prospect of burning off all the skin on my face, even though it would be a cheap way to get a chemical peel. 

I decide it is the perfect opportunity to read my owner's manual. Section 5-11 Engine Overheating. CAUTION !! Steam from an overheated engine can burn you badly even if you just open the hood. Get away from the car until the engine is cool. NOTICE: If your engine catches fire due to driving with no coolant, your vehicle can be severely damaged. The costly repairs would NOT be covered by your warranty. 

With 175,000 miles I doubt my expired warranty covers anything. I realize that this entire section is full of caution and danger warnings. I am now so freaked out by the thought of burning off my face, getting my hair caught in the electric fans or having a surge of coolant explode that I'm scared to even open the hood. I call my husband instead. As usual, whenever it is important, he does not answer. I text--emergency! call me! Still no response.

I open the hood. Nothing happens. I locate the coolant tank which does not look ANYTHING like the diagram in the owner's manual. The section on how to add coolant to the coolant surge tank features a picture of a WOMAN who gets blasted by a spray of boiling ethylene glycol, because she impatiently twisted the surge cap when it was hot. In the picture, her skin is still in tact, but she appears to be blinded. Now, why wouldn't they picture a man? Why is it the woman who is always portrayed as the dumb bunny? 

I carefully twist the cap, steam escapes and I panic. A few moments later, I remove the cap, but there's more steam. The book doesn't say whether I have to wait until all of the liquid is cool before pouring in NEW coolant. However there is a caution section on how you will get burned if you spill even a DROP of coolant on engine parts. Have you ever tried to pour a full gallon of coolant without spilling? It's not that easy. I spill some and curse. It is an unsightly radioactive green color. 

Back on the road. So far, so good. Temp gauge back to normal and I turn on the air. I can SEE the air conditioning and smell a funny burnt smell. Air is clear, you aren't supposed to be able to SEE it. I immediately think that the spilled chemical is wafting into the air vents, poisoning me. So I turn off the air, open the windows and breathe diesel fumes the rest of the trip. 

I make it to my exit when the gauge plummets into the red zone AGAIN!!! The coolant must have leaked out. I have not only poisoned myself, but the environment. That stretch of NJ turnpike will now be a bio hazardous wasteland, thanks to my careless error. I make it home without the engine catching fire. I feel exhausted, but slightly proud that I avoided major catastrophe. 

Hours later, the phone rings (ok only 2 hours, but still....) It is my husband, probably wondering about the emergency. I could have been dead by now. I ignore his call. Make him sweat a bit. Then I feel bad. What if he's really worried??? What if I cause him needless worry and he has a heart attack or gets into an accident? I call him back 10 minutes later. He tells me that in the future, I need to qualify what KIND of emergency in my text. Apparently I did not have what he considers a TRUE emergency. 

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