08 October 2013

My Anxious Monday of Waiting

One week ago today at 5.50am, I was driving down the Carrollton Ave exit off I-10 when I felt a weird sensation from the brake pedal. . .sort of like a pause in the braking-grip.

Just as I was noticing this weirdness, the Check Engine light on my dash lit up. 

After suppressing a spike of panic, I waited for the engine to erupt in flames, or to simply fall out of the bottom of the car and leave me pedaling the Toyota a la Fred Flintstone. . .

No explosion. No wrenching crash of metal.

When I got to my office, there was an email waiting for me from the place where I get a three-month oil change. Ah, I thought, The Car is in cahoots with the Oil Man. Easy fix. Regardless, I spent the rest of that day dreading the drive back to the priory.

Being a good postmodern-sort, I googled, "Check Engine light" and discovered that this phenomenon could indicate anything from a sticky fan belt to a diseased transmission.

Great. My history with car repair is a long, sad tale, involving thousands of dollars, weeks of anxiety, and lots of begging for rides.

Saturday: got the oil changed. "Check Engine" still shined brightly from the dash.

Monday: off to see Mr. Ray at Fleur de Lis Auto Care. 

I spent the morning in my room dreading the call from Mr. Ray. 

In my head, the news went like this: "Father, your transmission is attached to the engine with a bent paper-clip and the axles are held together with chop-sticks and duct tape."

Me: "Great. I'll bring over a new box of paper-clips and a roll of duct tape!"

When the call came. . .I jumped. 

Mr. Ray: "Father, we put the scanner on your car. . .[thundering drum roll]. . .the gas cap was loose."

So. All it cost me was a little humiliation and a lesson in Gas Cap Tightening Procedures.

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  1. Our check engine light comes on every time there is a big change in the outside temperature from hot to cold. It takes a day or two for the car to adjust to the new temp....

  2. Anonymous2:48 PM

    More important than that light coming on, the pause in grip when braking is more concerning. It could be the ABS doing its normal job, if your car has it, or it could be a brake master cylinder leaking, which is alarming.

    Do this: with the engine running and the car stopped in park or neutral with the parking brake applied, press the brake pedal all the way and note if it slowly goes down further by more than an inch. If so, the master cylinder may need to be replaced.

    Regardless, have your mechanic check it out, He can do that on the spot for free. And if the master cylinder does have to be replaced, with labor and all it shouldn't cost more than $300, give or take.

    1. ABS working would be more of pedal vibration than breaking-grip pause, wouldn't it...?

      Great to see car stuff here...!

    2. Anonymous5:46 PM

      Yes, but I guess that a non-initiated gear-head could describe the vibration or just one pulse of the ABS action as a momentary loss of grip. Regardless, Fra, do have someone check it out.

    3. Yeah...and then I guess the ABS led would be the one to light up on the dash for a second, not the engine led.

    4. The streets in Lakeview require a military-outfitted HumVee to navigate. We don't have potholes around here. . .we have pot-canyons.

  3. Anonymous2:49 PM

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  4. Ohio Ann11:50 AM

    a check engine light in a car with lots of mileage is usually the oxygen sensor.