Car Trouble

By: Paula Hendricks


I am travelling alone in a circle journey starting and ending in New Mexico.

This is a trip about shifting perspective. About figuring out where I want to be and what I want to do. I've done this before, but I guess about every 10 years this happens. It's happening again.

I drove the first leg to my brother's house - in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The second leg is east to Weirton, West Virginia (near Pittsburgh). The third leg is south to New Orleans, and the fourth leg is west to New Mexico.

I am having car trouble. And it's disconcerting. I mean I have had two problems with my car - a very dependable Acura Integra ('91) hatchback. My CB went out :( - so I had to buy a new one. That in itself is okay. I've had that CB a very long time. That experience has been a good one (more on that later).

But the other day my car wouldn't start. It made the right noises, just wouldn't completely turn over. Well, that told me it wasn't the battery. Even I know if there is no noise, the battery isn't working right. So I tried it 5 times. I took the key out, turned it over, tried it. I stopped, got out of the car, walked around it and looked at it. Tried it again. I even, gasp, pushed my foot all the way down on the gas (shows my age, eh? my car is fuel injected and I know I'm not supposed to do that. But, jeez, it's supposed to start when I start it). Nada. Nothing. I got out again, walked over to the medical library (did I tell you this was happening in the parking lot of the medical school of University of South Dakota where my sister-in-law works?). Still nothing.

By this time I'm fed up. Go in, call the 3A, even called my wonderful mechanic in New Mexico (so I'd have possible answers and language). Guy from 3A comes, car starts right up. Sound familiar?

Okay. Two days later, after wonderful normal driving during the previous two days, car won't start. Once. Second time. Voilý, all is okay. What is disconcerting is the intermittent nature of this.

On the other hand, things are different than they were years ago. Not one man I have dealt with with these problems has not believed me, nor has any one of them treated me "like a woman". I have been listened to, treated with respect, and when possible, had the problem fixed.

I have a new CB, installed easily (and with them consulting with me about installation options). The mechanic who came and found no problem said "These are the worst kind of problems - when it doesn't mess up all the time."

So, my first column is about anxiety on the road - I'm leaving South Dakota tomorrow, starting on the second leg of my journey, heading east toward Ohio and Pennsylvania... and my car is not completely dependable.

You may want to know I take very good care of my car. And before I left New Mexico I had it completely checked out. And several maintenance tasks taken care of. My mechanics, AA Auto & Air Conditioning, in Albuquerque are terrific - if you're ever there and need help, call them.

Now, you might ask, why are you leaving South Dakota with car problems. Well, it could take a long time to figure out what's wrong. It might just be this intermittent thing and I can make my trip and get home to my own mechanic. That's one reason. The other is I have a CB and a cell phone and I belong to the 3A. What I won't do on this leg is stop in unattended rest areas - I'll go to the truck stops as I like to do anyway.

Comments welcome.

Paula Hendricks is a freelance writer/photographer living in Corrales, New Mexico. She owns paula hendricks & associates, a web development firm.

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