Day 8: Set-backs in Indiana

Before I get your hopes up, this will be a picture-less post.  I took a few photos today but then pretty much disaster struck.  Of a mechanical nature.  Me and the dogs are fine.  Just frustrated.  Lousy weather this morning:  grey and rain.  My little humming sound didn’t start until after about the first hour.  As I was heading for the next big city to have it checked out, the check engine light came on.  I’ve been told not to panic when it does — it’s usually just an electronic thing and as long as the car is acting normal, not overheating, oil pressure fine, then you shouldn’t worry. 

Found a Chevy dealership and was optimistic.  Although they were closing at noon (and it was 9:30am), they would get me fixed up.  They got me out at 1pm.  The “check engine” thing came up on the computer as an oxygen sensor.  So that’s what was replaced.  I was nervous when I saw the mechanic struggling to get the part out, flabbergasted with the instructions of how to install, etc.  As for the sound, I was told it was my “cluster” (speedometer, etc.) and that it would be $500 plus and that it wouldn’t hurt to leave it be — sometimes the sound just goes away on its own.  Ok.

So, $250 or so later, hit the road and eager to start taking photos, even though it was still pretty grey and miserable.  Then, the sound returned, getting louder and louder.  Like 3 million wasps in your lap.  Loud.  Scary loud.  I was trying to imagine dealing with Chicago chaos with that going on.  Not a good plan.  Considered buying ear plugs.  Even the dogs were annoyed I think.  Then, it went away.  Maybe the guy was right? 

About 20 minutes later, I feel this buck.  Like you hit something.  Dead roadkill or a rubber hose.  Soft buck but noticeable.  Then again.  And then every few miles.  A buck, a surge.  But no sounds, no lights and running perfectly fine otherwise.  Stress!!!  Should I stop, should I drive?  No repair shops open anywhere.  At noon, they all close in northern Indiana, so everyone said.  What could it be?  Must be fuel related?  Then, 20 miles from Fort Wayne, the “check engine” light comes on again.  So did they guy diagnose the problem wrong — or was the part installed wrong — or just some additional thing?  My theory is that this is all related to the teeny humming that I had back in Brooklyn.  Even the speedo sound.  But all this is to be determined.

I may be in Fort Wayne til Monday.  Or longer.  Unfortunately, in a dullsville part of town with only gas stations and fast food places so I can’t even document stuff for you.  Unless.  I found a Sears Auto Center online — it’s supposedly open tomorrow at 9am.  So I’ll limp down the road — just 2.5 miles and give that a shot.  Luckily, this Red Roof Inn is right next to a gigantic field so I can run the dogs if we’re stranded here for more than 24 hours.  Hope not.  I’ll keep you posted.  This is what roadtrips are really all about I guess.  The highs and lows, the unexpected.  A reflection of life in general.  The good thing is, I’m going to sleep a lot tonight.

10 thoughts on “Day 8: Set-backs in Indiana

    • Fuel filter was just replaced about a month ago. But I do think it’s fuel related. If that oxygen sensor they installed has come loose, that would make sense. But it still wouldn’t explain the speedo-ish sound. I hope they have “check engine light” computer over there at Sears. For what it’s worth.

  1. dang, i’m so sorry debra jane. every time you mentioned the noise thing it made me worry — especially with such an ambitious trip in the works. i know how much this means to you, and how much you and those lucky dogs are raring to go.

    maybe a bit of sleep will be a bit of a blessing, rejuvenate you? not ideal, i know. and not why you are on the road…..

    i used to get my el camino fixed at a sears in east l.a. and they did a great job so i’ll send out good vibes for you this morning.


    • Pep Boys and Sears have been very good to me in the past. Here’s hoping! It’s a gorgeous sunny day here which makes standing still more painful. I’m gonna head over there at 8:30 and be (hopefully) the first in line.

  2. DJ, diagnosing mechanical failures are difficult in person, but I’m wondering if you might have had a timing chain failure. If it has never been replaced, at Sparkle’s mileage it is probably worn out. The timing chain and gears run of the very front of the engine, and operates the camshaft (which opens and closes the valves that admit fuel and air to the engine and let the exhaust gases out) and the ignition in synchronization with the crankshaft. Sometimes the nylon gears wear and occasionally shed a tooth or two, or maybe the chain has worn and stretched over time and jumped a tooth either way on the cam. This throws the entire valve and ignition timing out of whack, and then the computer can’t make sense of the readings it gets, throws up its hands and puts on the “Check Engine” light. If the chain was stretched, it could have been rubbing against the metal cover, and since your dashboard is pretty much directly over the front of the engine, I think the noise might have been transmitted up and seem to come from the dashboard.

    If so, fixing it is not a high-tech operation -probably 4 hours labor max, parts are not real expensive. Depends on how much junk has to be removed to get to the parts, and if it can be done on a vehicle lift (faster).

    Of course, I might be completely off base too.

    • I think you might be close — or even right! Today’s adventures, which I’ll be covering in an hour or so here at the blog, included replacing a cam sensor (that’s what the computer said today). Unfortunately, that’s not it. Or else I’m having several problems at the same time. They even mentioned something about timing chain. But think my noise now is distributor related. More later. Thanks for your suggestions! Hopefully, I’ll get going tomorrow morning — or you may hear something on the news about an irate woman murdering a mechanic with her bare hands.

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