Date – Wednesday, August 1st, 2012
Time – 5pm
Reversing from the garage reveals a small damp patch glistening in the car’s headlights. It’s oil, but I tell myself it’s nothing to worry about – I’ve had small leaks before and they’ve never been a drama.
As I peer into the black hole of my engine bay the thought that it’s only been a couple of weeks since the last service starts to bother me. There’s a trickle of oil making its way down the back of the engine leaving a shiny trail in its wake.
The bad news is they’ve only just replaced the rocker cover gasket under warranty, because the one they installed at the previous service had failed. The good news is that it doesn’t look to be anything major.
With the dipstick confirming the absence of a major problem I set off to see my lovely lady.
I was almost there when the flicker of a warning light attracted my attention. My initial thought of “that can’t be good” was quickly followed by a second opinion.
“Shit, this could be bad”.
Engines don’t like to run un-lubricated and here I was stuck in peak-hour traffic watching bright red photons announce a problem in the shape of an oil can. The thought of being one of those people you see on the TV traffic reports slowly engulfs my brain.
“Yes, thanks Rebecca. Well from up here in the chopper I can see a three-lane traffic jam stretching back for miles. Looks like some idiot forgot to check his oil and his car’s not happy. What a complete bastard!”
Fortunately I was close to a service station, and despite knowing I’d be paying black market prices for a bottle of 15W40 I pulled in. Only a car truly knows what a car truly wants, and mine had told me unequivocally what it expected from me. I was in no position to argue.
I was surprised when the dipstick again seemed to be showing plenty of oil, but on my car it’s always been hard to tell exactly what the reading is when the oil is fresh and clean. Even in the full light of day it’s difficult to see, and here I was trying to gauge it in a gloomy parking lot at night.
The fact that warning lights don’t pop up just to see the bemused look on your face leaves only one course of action, and I lovingly add a litre of Kuwait’s finest.
The warning light went out, confirming I’d done the right thing, and with a huge sigh of relief I rejoined the great swarm.
Date – Thursday August 2nd, 2012
Time – Dark O’Clock in the morning
With the sole intention of babying the car all the way to my mechanic I hit the road. He needed to have a look and solve this thing.
The trip seems endless. Driving 20 kilometres an hour under the speed limit my eyes are performing visual gymnastics. I’m scanning from road to warning light and back again. Over and over and over. I was going dizzy and felt sick.
Reaching the end of the motorway I start the climb up the mountain, and with only ten kilometres to go I’m almost there. Sweet!
Or so I thought.
From nowhere there’s a huge cloud of smoke. The car hesitates and loses power. Speed drops off dramatically as I kill the engine.
It’s obviously not happy.
I coast into the breakdown lane, and with smoke billowing from the tail pipe I come to a stop. It’s eerily quiet now.
I can only hope the damage isn’t too bad.
It’s a dodgy place to park. I’m in a 90 zone, just around a bend, so close to the traffic there’s less than a metre between me and oblivion. Trucks shake my tiny Holden as they fly past, dust and debris splattering the car in their wake.
I open the bonnet.
That can’t be good.
Provided they stay inside the combustion chambers where they belong flames are actually quite useful. Unfortunately it would seem mine have escaped and are now running around creating havoc, giving rise to the external combustion engine. Thick black smoke is billowing from the engine bay and in a few moments my car will be just one big molten blob on the side of the road. Soon I’ll be on YouTube, or worse, the focus of yet another TV news story.
“A man was seen running up the mountain today with his arse on fire yelling “the flame, the flame”. People initially thought he was just doing an avant-garde impersonation of Tattoo from Fantasy Island, however it soon became clear he was the owner of a car found abandoned some distance away. Reports indicate he ignored a flashing warning light and has paid the ultimate price – $49.99 for a five litre bottle.
“Witnesses say the flames somehow got out and turned his car into quote “one big molten blob on the side of the road”. Police are still roasting marshmallows at the scene…”
I snap back to reality. Suddenly my lungs are as big as something that has big lungs, and with one huge breath I blow out the fire. The emergency is over, and as the smoke dissipates I survey the damage.
More oil has leaked out and has run down the engine, gallons of it – it’s everywhere. Some has found its way onto the hot exhaust manifold and ignited but fortunately hasn’t had time to damage anything – well, nothing obvious that is. I shudder to think what’s gone on inside the engine.
As I sit alone, patiently waiting for the man with the tow truck another tow truck the size of a planet trundles past.
I’m gob-smacked. It’s hilarious. I burst out laughing, typing through watery eyes as I rush to tell my friends on Facebook.
Want to know what it was towing?
A big red Fire Engine.
Life can be so weird…