Monday, October 8, 2007

The wheels on the car go splat, splat, splat

Changing a tire in the middle of a dimly lit parking lot at 2 a.m. is totally the most excellent thing ever.

Especially when you're eight months pregnant.

As much as I love my 4-year-old Honda CR-V -- which is abnormally a lot, so much so that I tap the outside of the driver's side door on occasion like it is a live being when I get to my destination -- it has been a TOTAL PAIN IN MY ASS the past month.

The trouble started when the dashboard lights started popping on one at a time. First it was the "maintenance required" light, to which I was told that it was a "routine" occurrence when I took it in for my annual inspection.

"It's nothing," the guy said as he accepted my credit card for payment. "It just comes on automatically after a certain amount of mileage."

"So you were able to turn it off?" I asked, naively.



Weeks later, after a trip to New York and back, the "check engine" light popped on. A few miles later, the "ABS" light, as in "automatic break system," as in "kind of important," popped on, too. Next came the "brake" light.

Ready to duct tape a concrete block to the gas pedal and watch the entire vehicle careen off a cliff and burst into a fiery ball of flames, I asked Jerry to make an appointment at the Honda dealership, which fortunately happens to be right next to his office.

Also fortunately, Jerry is friends with one of the managers there and a lot of the maintenance guys listen to his radio show. So we're always confident that we'll get excellent service and won't get taken advantage of.

But after three days of running diagnostic tests, they couldn't figure out what was wrong with it. Jerry's friend explained to me over the phone that nothing was actually wrong with any of those parts, just the electronic device that communicated with the dashboard. But how to fix it was putting them in a major quandary.

We left my car with them for more than a week while we were on vacation in Nebraska and Illinois. During that time, they conquered the beast, they said. But only after a special diagnostics expert traveled into town specifically to inspect and diagnose my car.

One hefty bill later and I was confident that it was now safe and ready to cart around our child when the time comes.

Until the "Break" and "ABS" lights started popping on and off like blinking Christmas lights a few days later.

This time, a fiery plume of smoke in a ravine wouldn't have been good enough. I wanted real explosives. Big sticks of dynamite labeled "TNT" like you see in old Road Runner cartoons.

So Jerry made another appointment. This time they had it 12 hours as my superhero husband patiently waited. They finally determined that it needs another part. One that has to be ordered for another day and runs in the three-digit arena.

I was pissed, but knew it was a necessary evil. And nothing encourages you to dump money into your vehicle like knowing a newborn will be riding in the back seat in a few weeks.

The appointment to install said part was for this morning. But in the meantime, I noticed a slight squeaking noise when I turned sharp corners. Knowing it could possibly be lack of air in the tires, I gave them a good look one afternoon on my way to work. They all appeared like they could stand to be topped off, but nothing overwhelming.

I was wrong.

Apparently my front passenger tire had a leak. And it decided to empty out to the rims the one night I had to pull the late shift this week at work.

I started up my car completely exhausted after a nine-hour shift, not noticing that it was totally lopsided. Then I proceeded to drive it out of the parking lot, trying to ignore the odd growling sounds it was making even at less than 10 miles per hour.

Knowing something was definitely wrong, I pulled around with a huge sigh, parked next to a floodlight and got out to inspect the tires. Again.

This time there was no question. I was looking at flat rubber.

Although I am well versed at changing tires, the thought of sitting outside in the parking lot by myself as all of the third-shift paper delivery drivers sped past didn't quite sit well with me. So I resigned myself to asking for help and felt fortunate that one of the sports guys and another night editor hadn't yet left the news room.

Although it was late, they didn't hesitate to come down and help me. I explained that I could do everything myself except loosen the lug nuts.

So, I led them to my car, opened up the back, pulled out the jack, got on the ground, felt around for the metal rim and started twisting the jack in place.


"I'm propping the car up so we can get the bad tire off."

"I see that," he said. "GET OFF THE GROUND! ... I can change your tire, but I can't deliver your baby. GET UP."

"Dude, I got it."


I reluctantly obliged to let Scotty take over. Then I went to the back of the car, unzipped the spare tire cover and attempted to loosen the lug nuts there.

"KELLY STOP! I mean it. I can't deliver a baby. I got it."

They also protested when I lifted the flat off the wheel base.

"I really meant that I could do everything myself except for the lug nuts," I said. I was exhausted and more than a little frustrated at my vehicle, but my fully ingrained "I am woman, I can do it" attitude gave me all the adrenaline I needed.

An hour later, my spare tire was in place and I thanked the guys profusely for their help as I drove home. I woke Jerry to tell him to be careful while driving it to the dealership this morning and that our service bill likely just quadrupled because I probably need four new tires.

"Better now than in a few weeks," he said, always the eternal optimist.

"And at least the fleas are gone," he added, trying his best to make me feel better as I collapsed into bed.

"Yeah, but doesn't bad crap always come in threes?" I said in the darkness. "I swear I can't take anything else. The next time I really will just go into labor."

My fear of the disastrous trifecta must've translated into my subconscious because I woke up dreaming about going down on the Titanic.

Eight months pregnant.

Fortunately, I don't have any plans to travel by cruise liner any time soon.

And if I did, I'd cancel them.


chelsea said...

At least you know, or hope, things will be safe for one the baby comes!

kristin said...

Well better to have all of this happen now rather then when your infant is in the backseat. Now you know you are uber-prepared.

Janice said...

Oh no---but I agree with Chelsea... at least you'll be fine when the baby comes :)

Tiffany said...

Man, what luck!

Erin in Scranton said...

Poor Kelly! At least it didn't happen on one of the roads to or from work. And you had help. And you didn't go into labor. But don't send the Honda into a ravine. They have good trade-in value....

Emmy said...

Honda's are great cars but the cost of its upkeep is enough to make a sane person INSANE! lol Seriously, though! I had one 8 years back. I rode that bad boy until it was finally on its last legs. Then, I traded it in for a friggin' 2005 Toyota Camry, an XLE model! It was the best one I could find for the kind of money I was willing to spend at that particular time. Oh, well...

Anyway, I'm super glad that things worked out in the end, that you AND your tire turned out fine. <3

Emmy said...

Extra Camry Info for those looking for a new car:

Why was I crazy enough to pick the Camry? My car comes with Anti-lock brakes on my mid-size XLE V6 4-door sedan with 210-hp, a 4-cylinder engine that comes with a 5-speed automatic, which for '05 replaces a 4-speed automatic. Also, my Camry includes ABS, and 17-inch alloys. The front side airbags and head-protecting curtain side airbags are on all sides with an anti-skid system, including standard steering-wheel audio controls and a rear center headrest. There's standard, power-adjustable pedals, gray leather upholstery, which is the basic design shared by the ES 330 at Toyota's luxury Lexus division. *Ahem* That's *ALL* on the Camry, folks!!! lol

So (recently) I had asked around about my fully loaded car. Like, how much I could get for it if I traded it in? They looked at me like I was nuts for even thinking it! They told me to keep it another 4-5 years since it's not that old and runs great. Mmkay! I think I'm getting the hint! I'll keep it then.

Anonymous said...

Triple A. The best 99 bucks a year (for the premium family plan) you'll ever spend.

Ray said...


I mean I know what you mean about being a woman and being able to do just about anything if you set your mind to it, but be careful. After you give birth than those things will be okay to do.

Well granted that you'll just want to rest, rest, rest with that little baby girl of yours. A baby girl that you'll be meeting shortly.

Well, take care & be safe!

"doc hudson" plainsman said...

Something is not right in Hondaland, unless some little dog friend of Toby's has pulled the curtain aside and revealed it is just another car with a now undeserved reputation. You should not have to pay in frustration and cash for the Honda folks diagnostic shortcomings!

Well that's my two drops of oil on the issue -- agree with the rest, time to "slack off" on at least the heavy lifting, 'cept it is not slacking off as there is good reason.

I'm not into Camry's, but that Emmy here really knows her car stuff and almost has me taking another look!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I too, have a 4 year old Honda CR-V and have had the same problems happening.So far it's only the maintenance required light that keeps flashing. I also got a flat tire this week, but that was because I somehow got a two inch nail stuck to the front driver side wheel. Took it in and sure enough I had to get 4 new tires:(

I love my CR-V though!!! I feel safe in it when I'm driving my boys everywhere. And trust me getting an infant carseat in and out is so much easier than in a regular car cause you don't have to bend down.

Aisha said...

you're also going to want to avoid heavy lifting for a few months after you have your gal- you might feel okay in the moment, but the next day, you'll regret it, and it can be really, really bad for you.

Anonymous said...

You can turn off the Maintenance Required light yourself -- check your car manual. It's easy!