Monday, January 10, 2011

North Coast Travelogue: January 9

Had to head down to San Francisco yesterday for the Connie's appointment at USCF Medical Center. This one was a quickie.

Left Eureka right about 11am after my obligatory stop for iced tea at Taco Bell. Time seemed to go real fast for some reason. Before we knew it we were heading down a slight grade at Redcrest and the truck seemed to shudder about 3 times maybe 10 seconds apart. I wondered if something might be wrong with the truck but dismissed it as hopefully just road conditions.

Nope. Maybe 5 minutes later I feel the shudder again and the Check Engine light starts flashing. I told Connie it doesn't look like we're going to make it to San Francisco this time. The shuddering continued off and on like the engine was trying to stall, but we still managed to keep freeway speed. I started thinking of where we could stop.

Weott was the next turn off. I figured it's there or Myers Flat. I didn't want to get stuck on the freeway. We took the offramp at Weott with the truck acting like it wanted to die. Once we came to the stop sign the truck seemed to be running fine. The Check Engine light had gone from flashing to staying on. I wasn't sure what that was supposed to mean.

The last time I'd been in Weott was probably 30 years ago. Back then I remembered a motel of some kind. At least I remembered there being more than we were seeing. I saw the Weott Central sign that was visible from the freeway and tried to go there. We drove down the only road that looked like went there but it was a dead end.

I finally decided to go stop underneath the freeway overpass if only because that would be a easy to find landmark to direct a tow truck to, assuming we could get a tow truck to come out and get us. The truck was idling fine and I wondered if I should chance turning it off. What if I couldn't get it started again? Then I figured I wasn't going to try to drive anywhere at that point, anyway, so I went ahead and shut it off.

I keep a phone book in the truck for just this sort of thing so I opened it up and looked for a towing company. Found one in Fortuna and figured that would be closer so maybe less expensive. Then I realized since I'd be having the truck towed to Eureka, the distance would end up being the same.

Then I noticed Humboldt Towing had a number for Fortuna and called that number. The call seemed to be redirected, probably because it was Sunday. The lady answers and I asked her if they could come down to Weott. She said that would be fine but that my insurance might not cover all the cost for a tow that far away. She said she'd try to get hold of my agent and ask about coverage.

Well, I had to get the truck out of there so that didn't matter. I gave her my phone number and she said the driver would call me back. Within a couple minutes he calls and took my credit card info saying it was unlikely insurance would pay for all of it. He was going to charge it to my card if they couldn't get hold of my agent and I could get reimbursed from State Farm later. Whatever. He said he'd be there in driving time from Eureka.

There we sat, and I realized I shouldn't have parked under the freeway overpass. It was a bit chilly out and it would be nice to have the sun warm the inside of the cab. I went ahead and tried starting the truck and it started right up. I backed the truck up into the sun and turned it off. Still a bit chilly but at least the cab would be warmer.

I'll admit to being somewhat apprehensive being stuck in a strange place like Weott, not having any idea what the people there were like, but one couple came driving by right away and stopped and asked if we needed help. I thanked them and told them help was on the way.

Then a short indian guy came walking down the road from the east side of town. He wasn't exactly walking in a straight line and I wondered if he was drunk or drugged. Naturally, he steered himself towards us. I wondered if this might be a problem? Nope. He said he was from out of the area and was attending a church service and was looking for a place to buy a newspaper.

I could see the church he was referring to so that was cool, but didn't know what to tell him about finding a newspaper. About that time some younger white guy came walking by and the indian asked him the same question. The kid just said no and that the closest place to get a paper was Myers Flat. The kid seemed like a pretty unfriendly sort. I wondered if he was generally unfriendly or just didn't like indians?

The kid went his way and the indian wandered back towards the church. Meanwhile, I was surprised at the number of cars driving back and forth past us. Some of them were the same people over and over again, but I was still surprised there was so much traffic for such a small place. Most of the people smiled as they went by. Seemed like a friendly enough place, that one kid aside.

I'd been feeling the need to take a pee for some time and it was about the time we'd normally be stopping at the One Log House for a food and bathroom break. Here we were out in the middle of nowhere and I didn't see any real discrete place to take a piss. I knew Connie was probably feeling it, too. Finally she mentioned she might need to go to the bathroom.

I thought about starting up the car and finding some trees to hide behind, but that might not be a good idea if we couldn't get the truck started after stopping off in the bush somewhere. I suggested to Connie it looked like there was a depression just off to the right of the northbound offramp that had some bushes in it. Maybe she could go down there and do it where no one could see her?

She walked over to take a look. Meanwhile, I decided to pee right by the truck. I just opened the passenger door a bit, faced into the cab and pissed in the street gutter. I had to squat down a bit so people coming from the east wouldn't see what I was doing. It was a bit awkward, but it worked.

Connie came back and said it was too steep down in the spot I'd suggested. She said she'd just have to wait. I realized holding it can be a real problem for women, especially her, so figured we had to do something. I asked her if she'd brought along a blanket, thinking she could squat down on the side of the floorboard and pee where I did. I could hold up a blanket covering her.

She didn't have a blanket, so I grabbed her coat and said I'd use that. I set the door up just as I had for myself and was surprised she was going to go along with my idea. I guess she almost had to as it might be hours before she'd get the chance to go if she didn't do it then.

She squatted down, supported by the floorboard on one side, and took her leak. And boy did she! It took minutes for her to finish. After she got done she said, "Boy. I guess I really did have to pee". Nice to get that over with.

By that time I figured the tow truck was maybe fifteen minutes away but about 5 minutes later he drove up. He wasted no time in hooking up the truck and we were on our way to Eureka. I asked him about how much it cost per hour for towing as I expected I might have to pay much of the bill out of pocket. He said he wasn't sure. I was thinking of maybe just having him drop the truck on the south end of town and I could chance driving the rest of the way myself and save a few bucks.

But I didn't. We flew back to Eureka. At least it seemed a lot faster than when we drive that route ourselves. Got back to our house just before 2pm and I had him drop the truck on the Trinity Street side of the house since the front had Connie's car, my trailer and the neighbors car parked there.

He filled out the paperwork while making a phone call to his office about the charges. I was thinking I'd be leaving the truck where it was and then decided to see if it would start again. If it would, I could drive it over to its normal parking place in front of the house.

It wouldn't start. Then I realized I hadn't pushed the clutch in when I tried to start it. It won't start without the clutch depressed. I tried it again with the clutch depressed and it started right up. I told the driver thanks for the prompt and efficient service and went to move the truck. He said to hold on a second as I had to sign the second invoice- the one with the charges I would pay. Yikes! Here it comes.

He explained that they'd gotten hold of my insurance agent and my insurance would be paying all of the towing expenses except the "overage" of $25.00. I tried to peek and see what the other invoice had for charges but he hadn't filled it in yet. Awesome. Saved by Janet Holmes at State Farm. I was thinking hundreds of dollars and only paid $25.00.

All in all we lucked out. It could have been a lot worse. As Connie pointed out while we were sitting in Weott, at least it happened within range of home and not down in the Bay Area where we'd likely have had to rent a room somewhere for however long it took to get the truck fixed.

The main downside, as I see it, is this is the first time I've had any sort of serious problem with the truck. Is this just the beginning of other problems to come?

14 Comments:

At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any time check engine light comes on there will be a code for a mechanic to read that will tell what the problem is instead of taking it to someone that can't read the code and then they start repairing one thing after another. I think the Courthouse 76 can read codes but I would call and ask and also ask how much as I seem to remember that when getting a smog on a car there that they discovered there was a code and charged me quite a bit to read it.

 
At 11:06 AM, Blogger Fred said...

Thanks. Yes, I'm taking the truck to a guy that will hopefully be able to read the codes. He couldn't read the codes on the wife's Geo Metro a while back (he didn't charge for it), but hopefully he can read this newer truck.

 
At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some code readers only give a generic type code and not the actual code. Some mechanics buy code readers that really do not tell them much. Might say transmission but not state that the actual code was low fluid.

Did the truck seem to be missing or engine seemed to be trying to shut off? Makes a difference in what is actually happening and those types of things also help the mechanic if they have a generic code reader. The dealers have code readers that tell them everything but they also expect to fix it too. We have used a mechanic that works for a dealer but does work out of his house for a lot of repairs.

 
At 2:44 PM, Blogger Fred said...

Well, I'm hoping the guy I took it to will be able to read the code well enough to find the problem. I should know by tomorrow.

When it first happened, I got to thinking the slight shudder reminded me of when I lost a u joint on my old truck. I also thought it felt a bit like the engine was misfiring and wanted to shut down. Couldn't hear anything, though.

Another thing it reminded me of was when my ignition module went bad all of the sudden on my old Ford Ranger. That was the exact same thing, except when I stopped the engine, I couldn't get it started again.

I can't imagine the transmission being low on fluid as I have it checked regularly.

It started right up and drove fine when I went down to the auto shop this morning, the only exception being the Check Engine light was still on. It was like nothing ever happened except for the light being on. Maybe it's a high speed problem?

I told them about the CE light flashing when the problem started and the mechanic said that's a bad one- a skip 2- or some such. That means whatever it was could stop the car from being drivable. Since being on all the time isn't as bad, it almost made me feel like taking back on the freeway again to see if the light started flashing again.

 
At 9:03 AM, Anonymous Humboldt Heretic said...

Fred,
Regarding "codes" if one of the county's "finest" had received a report of you "whizzing" by the roadside, Kalifornia Penal code section 2090.005 (d) 1 would require you to register as a "sex" offender.

"Show me the man and I will find the crime"
Leventry Beria

 
At 9:08 AM, Blogger Fred said...

I know, but it still gets me that we were that far out in the middle of nowhere and there was nowhere to piss.

 
At 7:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You go for a drive, truck makes noises, you pull over, weird people, you're pissing all over the place, your wife is pissing all over the place, you come back home.

That just about covers it.

 
At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Curious wants to know what ends up being wrong with your truck. Can you post answer here??

 
At 6:43 AM, Blogger Fred said...

Yep.

I took it into the shop Monday afternoon. It started up and ran fine all the way down there, the only reminder of something wrong being the Check Engine light on but it hadn't flashed since we came to the stop sign in Weott.

When I told the tech at the shop the light had been flashing, he said the same thing as the tow truck driver: That's not good as a flashing light means something is seriously wrong.

So, I left it there and next morning they started it up and hooked up the scope to it. The scope found a trouble code that said the #4 spark plug was misfiring, but the truck was running fine.

The guy calls me and told me didn't know what to tell me since, despite the light still being on, the truck is running fine and they can't find anything wrong with it.

I then asked him if the light was still on. He said it was. I asked him if he could reset the light so we could see if it would go back on again (Why he didn't do that in the first place, I don't know).

He went ahead and reset the light. It went off and stayed off and the truck has run fine since. The light is still off.

The problem is, it's like there's some hidden problem with it waiting to rear its ugly head. I'm afraid to drive it any distance on the freeway now, never mind to San Francisco.

I'm thinking of taking it out on the freeway to see if the problem comes up again, but it took all the way to Redcrest for it to happen the first time. I'm not sure what to do.

 
At 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If only one spark plug showed it was misfiring then you start there and look at the plug then the wire then the distributor - or even check that cylinder for compression. I had engine light come on and car ran strange after filling with gas and it was a loose gas cap and just happened to be a few blocks from the mechanic and that was what he discovered. Intermittent issues are always difficult to diagnose and cure though.

 
At 11:18 AM, Blogger Fred said...

I'm not sure they even looked at the spark plug in question. Probably not, since the truck seemed to be running fine. I suggested replacing the spark plug but the guy said he wasn't going to replace just one plug.

I had a customer call me yesterday and suggest a loose gas cap might be the problem as that happened to her, too. I guess I should check that, but it was running fine before the problem and it's running fine now, or seems to be. I would think if that was the problem it would still be acting up.

You're right. The intermittent things are difficult to figure out. I can't blame the mechanics when you bring a car to them and it's running fine that they can't find anything wrong.

 
At 11:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We had a van that we were going to sell and took it in to get a smog cert. When we came back to get it they said it was missing and we had just driven it there - about 13 miles with no miss at all. They couldn't figure out what was wrong as the code just said it had a miss and with that it wouldn't pass smog. Drove it over to the mechanic who looked at it and said one of the spark plug wires had come off and also said it probably had never been really on the plug completely and just decided to fall off at that time. Put the wire on firmly and it passed smog and we sold it and it is still running just fine. I know that engine heat at times will cause a failing plug wire to act up and when the engine cools off it runs fine. Any possibility it may have lost some water from radiator and water got on plug/wire which can also cause a failing wire to not function correctly and start to miss. I personally would take a look at the plug and see what it looks like compared to one of the others but just don't overtighten it when you put it back in.

 
At 1:20 PM, Blogger Fred said...

I had a strange thing happen to an old car of mine back in the late 70s. In hindsight, I wondered if it was sabotage?

I pulled up in front of my house after I came home from work and got out of the car. I heard a strange noise under the hood and saw some smoke. I open the hood and there's a fire on top of the engine. I quickly put it out. I forget how, whether it was a fire extinguisher or just slapping on it with a rag.

I look to see what happened and notice the rubber fuel line to the carburator had a crack in it and had leaked fuel on top of the engine.

What started the fire was one of the sparkplugs had come unscrewed and was laying on top of the engine, fully connected to the distributor. So, it grounded and fired, creating a spark which set the leaking gas on fire.

I can understand a fuel line getting cracked but, for the life of me, I still can't see how a sparkplug could become fully unscrewed from the cylinder all by itself and end up laying on top of the engine rather than hanging down below it.

Strange. I thought about it years later and wondered if someone intentionally did that. Sneaky way to play a dirty trick on someone. Crack their fuel line, unscrew a sparkplug and let it start a fire. I can't imagine who would have done such a thing, though.

 
At 7:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like you just need a tune up. How many mikes you got? If its over 80,000 its time to replace your plugs, replace the distributor and all the wiring. You can do all of that yourself. Or take it to Harpers and they'll do the whole factory 100,000 thing for 4 or 6 hundred, plus if you tell them you're interested in buying a new truck, they'll loan you one while they tune up your truck.

 

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