I’ve probably mentioned it here before, but I am not a car guy. By that, I mean to say that you will not find me changing the oil on my car on the weekend, or rotating things or torquing something. I don’t torque.
This, I am aware, is a glaring hole in my manly education. It was just never something that I was ever interested in learning.
So, I get my oil changed regularly, I check things like fluid levels and tire pressure, but that is it. Other than that, whatever the car mechanics tell me to do I do.
When things happen that are outside of the normal, I’m really out of my element.
Also, when I do go and get my cars scheduled maintenance stuff, I feel like a kid being schooled by an annoyed parent/teacher.
Anyway. Couple weeks back, I was driving through a parking lot, heading back to the dayjob after lunch, and there was a very large puddle in the road ahead – all of it snow melt. I went through the puddle and came to a red light. My car acted weird. By weird, it felt like I lost power / the engine had quit. So I put it in park, shut it off, then turned it back on. The light turned green and I moved forward. I was turning left. Halfway through the intersection, my power steering vanished.
Ever try to drive a car without power steering when you’re used to power steering?
Essentially, I was pulling the wheel with two hands, cranking it hard. I made the turn but knew I couldn’t keep going very far. Up ahead on the right was a little driveway so I took it – turning in was a chore!
I was behind Office Max in their loading dock area. I shut the engine off, turned it back on. Had power steering for a second, then it vanished again – the gauges lit up with SERVICE ENGINE SOON and CHECK GAUGES all in red.
Red is not a good color. Red is the color for PAY ATTENTION!
The problem is, opening up the hood of the car wouldn’t do much for me. I don’t know what to look for. So I called my uncle. he said there’s usually a belt that controls power steering. Okay. I’ve only ever seen one belt in my engine, a really long one. “Serpentine belt?” he asked. “Yeah!” I answered. He told me to check it and I did. This is what I saw:
Notice the two…uh…round…thingies, in the upper left corner of the picture? Well, the belt should be looping through those. This was when I realized it was not good. Being me, I took a couple more pictures.
That one’s a little closer shot from the same angle. This one’s from the other side:
Now, I may not be a car guy, but I am smart enough to KNOW I am not a car guy. So I have road side assistance! I called, they came and towed me to a nearby Sears Service Center where they discovered that a Belt Tension Assembly had broken. I’d gone in thinking maybe the belt had broken – a $30 fix. With the Assembly broken, it was a $360 fix.
Took em a couple of hours (they had to flush the coolant system because coolant flows through the assembly? Who designed THAT?) to get my car up and running again. Oddly, I can feel a difference when driving the car now. The engine is running smoother. Obviously, there was a problem and I either got used to it or the change was so subtle, I didn’t realize it was happening.
Fixed now, though…