17 February 2009

A couple of weeks back I took my car in for 55,000 mile maintenance, during which it was discovered that the water pump was starting to leak, which necessitated a couple of extra hours of work on the part of the car dealership to replace. I figured that everything was hunky-dory with my car, and indeed for a couple of weeks it was.

Earlier tonight after getting off from a whiz-bang day at work, I noticed that the 'check engine' light had blinked on somewhen after I got on the Beltway headed south to go home. I didn't think anything of it until exit 42 or therabouts, when I realized that my car's engine was idling much more roughly than usual. I chalked it up for the moment to stop-and-go traffic in cold weather, and didn't think too much of it. When I reached exit 43 or 44, I discovered that the heater had given out, and the AC was pumping nothing but cold air into the passenger compartment. I sighed and made a mental note to get the heater looked at. By the time I hit exit 45A I realized all in the same instant that a) I was losing speed rapidly, b) I had lost acceleration, which could have meant a sentence of death to be carried out immediately in rush hour traffic, and c) there was a curious fwap-fwap-fwapping sound coming from the engine compartment.

One part of my brain thought that I'd run over something soft and it had gotten caught in the undercarriage, which the rest of my brain summed everything up and hit the "Oh, shit" button. My first priority was to get the hell out of traffic and park without getting smeared by a semi truck or a soccer mom late for yoga class in an SUV. I managed to limp into a mostly unused parking lot near Tyson's Corner and popped the hood. The steam dribbling from beneath the hood smelled strongly of burning synthetic rubber and a quick look-see with a flashlight revealed an engine compartment that had been liberally soaked with engine coolant. Either a feedline came loose or my car blew a hose; either of these scenarios would result in a crippled engine, the sound of something flapping around, and toxic fluid gushing all over the place. I placed a couple of phone calls and managed to get in touch with the dealership's preferred towing company to get my car hauled back to the garage for a look-see. As it turned out, I had to wait over an hour with no heat before the tow truck arrived, loaded my car onto the flatbed, and transported us back to the dealership. Thankfully, Laurelinde was in the area and drove me home after I filled out the requisite paperwork and handed my keys over.

I might be stranded for a couple of days until I get everything straightened out... and see if the garage had anything to do with this horse doctor's dose of WTF.