09 August 2008

a tale of two car repairs

It was the best of vacations, it was the worst of vacations...

No, actually, we had a great vacation--just got back from a week of travels. We spent most of the time with my parents in IL, but also saw our friends Ben and Krisanne in IL and Rebecca's grandmother in MO.

The troubles started last Saturday--as we were leaving the home of some friends that evening, the van took several times to start. Rebecca has been warning me about this problem, but the van never seems to act up when I'm driving. I still have my keys and alarm code to my father-in-law's mechanic shop where I used to work, so after dropping the family off I went to the shop and checked the charging system. Battery: good. Alternator: bad. Ugh. It was now 9:45 on Saturday evening, and we were planning on leaving early the next morning.

I had one trick up my sleeve from my shop management days, and still knew the wholesale number to the local O'Reilly auto parts store. They were open until 10pm during the week--what about Saturday? Sure enough, they were open for fifteen more minutes, and they had one alternator in stock that fit our car. So I went after it, took it back to the shop and prepared to install an alternator on my wife's van, which is absolutely hilarious, because I am the black hole of auto repair. I can sell the repair, but the most I had ever done before was an oil change.

Fortunately, Tony, my father-in-law, showed up as I was printing instructions on how to install the alternator, and he said he would help. Which of course meant that he installed it and I "helped," which itself means that I held the flashlight. He did it in about 45 minutes--would have taken me over two hours. So, thanks to my sales background at the shop and my father-in-law's gracious work, we were on the road the next day, rather than waiting until Monday for a repair.

On the way home, our left rear tire separated, losing a nice chunk of tread, so I got to put the spare on at the side of the OK Turnpike, as trucks whizzed by at 85mph. Check it out--yes, this tire is the one from our car. During my time at the shop I had seen so many people that couldn't deal with a flat, because they didn't know how to get their spare, never checked the air in the spare, couldn't find the wheel lock key, etc. so I learned from their mistake, knew all my details and it was a relatively quick process. Which probably seems like a minor deal to most people, but to me, that was pretty cool.

These were minor issues compared to what could have happened, but we are grateful to be home. We found gas for $3.36 in Missouri--how awesome was that? How ridiculous was it that were were excited about $3.36 gas? Rebecca and I also got a good deal of time to discuss something that we have been talking about for some time, and made two pretty big decisions during this trip. More on those later, probably next week.

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