The Hazards of Hazel, Pt. 2

We’d had a few cold days so far in November, but the first morning it dipped into the 20s brought a sense of déjà vu. Just like in January, we went out to run errands. It was Saturday morning, and our first stop was going to be the credit union.

Earlier that week, I’d gone to do a direct transfer of my IRA CD from my bank in Illinois to my new credit union in Michigan. The IRA matured on Nov. 10 so I went on that day; the personal banker in Illinois had told me it could all be done via fax. When we got there and they called the Illinois bank, the very same woman I’d dealt with there said that no, it had to be sent via snail mail. You get a 10 day grace period to get your money in the new account without it being treated (and taxed) as a withdrawal, so this was all making me nervous. I assumed this would be a bank-to-credit union transaction, but instead my old bank mailed me a check for the amount of my IRA. I’d received the check on Friday and was desperate to get it deposited at the credit union before my grace period was up.

So that was important, and also, we were down to the last quarter of our last roll of toilet paper. NOT cool. So purchasing toilet paper ranked a very close #2 on our list of things to do that day.

We got out to the car, and it was just like before. The car would start and then die. We were completely stunned.

Dave opened the hood and looked around, and came back in a while later carrying the remnants of an acorn or walnut – some kind of nut. He was incensed – there was evidence that chipmunks (which we have a BUNCH of) had been inside the engine. He was sure they’d chewed on wiring, at the very least.

So I spent the rest of the day freaking out and looking up ways to keep chipmunks out of our car engine. Dave looked for a new mechanic, and we were pretty much stuck because the mechanic he chose was not open on the weekend.

I really wanted to rent a car so that we could definitely get to the bank on Monday, as well as my doctor appointment. You see, I had an eye doctor appointment Monday at 10 am – I was going to finally get my eyes dilated (which I was nervous about) and I also assumed I was ordering my new contact lenses that day as well. (I ended up ordering them online because they never mentioned ordering them at the office – no big deal.)

I also wanted a place that would come pick us up, since we didn’t have any way to get to the car rental place. The rental place in our town was closed on the weekend, but there was one at the mall in Mishawaka, IN that was open Saturday and Sunday. They had closed at 1 pm and it was 1:05, but I asked Dave to just call and see if they might answer the phone – I wanted to see if they would be willing to drive to Michigan to pick us up on Sunday.

In a crazy stroke of luck, a guy did answer the phone – he’d forgotten his cell phone and was nice enough to answer when he heard the store phone ringing. Although we were about a mile out of their range, after Dave explained our predicament he said they’d be happy to come pick us up on Monday. !!

The next day, Sunday, Dave did some messing around with the car and managed to get it to start. But we still really didn’t know what was going on, and I didn’t feel comfortable taking a chance on it on Monday morning. So we stuck with the rental car plan. They picked us up on time and that all went well. We even stopped and got toilet paper on our way home Sunday afternoon.

We did have some car rental excitement, though. We had a 2013 Mazda with a keyless entry/start, something we’d never seen before. There was no manual in the car, and we could NOT figure out how to get it to start. I had to use my phone to look online and find out we had to press on the brake while pushing the ‘start’ button on the car. Talk about making us feel old and out of touch!

On Monday morning, Dave was again able to get our car started. We didn’t know how long it would last, so he ran in to call the mechanic shop while the car was running. The guy said he couldn’t even look at it until Wednesday, but sure, we could bring it by and drop it off. I quickly got ready and we ran out to the rental car. The plan was to drop off our car, then go to the bank and make the deposit, then come home and hang out for 30 or so minutes until it was time to go back out for my eye doctor appointment.

We got out to the rental car, pressed ‘unlock’ on the key fob, and nothing happened. The car would not unlock, no matter what we did. We found the key inside the fob and tried that; it turned but would not unlock the doors. We spent 10 minutes, freezing, running around this car like idiots trying to get it open. All the while our car was just idling in the driveway, and we had no idea if it would keep running or just die.

Dave ran in to call the rental center; they gave us the number of roadside assistance. He called them and they wanted to charge us $55 to come and unlock the car. Now Dave is yelling and I’m panicking. I ran back outside and pressed more buttons. I noticed this small gray rubber circle on the car door, so I tried pressing it while I hit ‘unlock’ on the fob … and the door opened! I flew back inside and told Dave, he hung up with the unhelpful roadside assistance people, and we were FINALLY in business.

We got all our errands done, I got the all-clear on my eyes (no retinal tears, yay) and then it started snowing. We got over 15 inches of snow that night.

We drove that rental car on Monday, a short while on Thursday, and then back to the rental place on Friday. $250 for that … still kills me to think about it. (But at least we had the car to use if we had needed it the rest of the week, I guess.)

The mechanic could not really figure out what was going on with the car. The code it was giving had to do with the camshaft position sensor AGAIN, so we were wrong in blaming the chipmunks. They had stored some nuts in the car, but hadn’t chewed wiring after all. He could get the car going, and then the next morning it wouldn’t start again. After Dave talked to him, he decided to go to a junkyard on Thursday and look for some connections and harnesses and other car parts. He did find a few, and it was just a little over $3 for everything. After that, we stopped off to talk to the mechanic that afternoon.

The car had been sitting out in the cold (and it was COLD that week) all day, so while we were there the mechanic went out to try starting the car. It started right up, so we all called it good. We paid him $60 for the work he’d done rewiring the connector.

Friday morning, Dave went out to start our car and again, it would not start. He messed a bit with the CSP connection and it started right up. He decided he knew enough about the problem that he would just fix it himself. We took the rental car back, glad to have that expense behind us. (Well, I still have to find a way to pay that credit card off next month, ugh.)

Every morning, he’d try the car. If it was warmer outside, the car would start fine. If not, he’d have to mess with stuff to get it started. It always ran fine once it started, and would start up with no problem for the rest of the day. It was just that first morning start that gave us trouble.

Dave has made new harnesses and ordered new parts and tried so many different things. The last thing he did seems to maybe have worked – she started fine this morning and yesterday as well. But it’s also been a little warmer here, in the 30s both mornings. We aren’t really sure if she’ll start up okay if the temperature drops into the 20s or below.

Incidentally, we did consider getting a second car as a backup. We have enough money to get a beater that could just get us around if Hazel is in the shop. But my GOSH – car insurance in Michigan is insane. We found one we were going to look at, and I asked Dave to call our insurance agent for a quote before we headed out the door. He was sure it would be cheap just for the most basic coverage (i.e., not comprehensive). But no, it would have been an additional $70/month – something we just are not prepared to spend right now. Buying a new car to replace Hazel altogether is also out of our price range.

So that’s where we’re at now. I guess either she’s fixed or, if not, we’ll keep jiggling her connections until spring arrives. But I do believe we owe the chipmunks an apology.


About wendiwendy

I'm a real-life bionic woman.

Posted on December 6, 2014, in Not Related to Hearing Loss and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’m jealous about the 15 inches of snow! Jealous about the chipmunks too! I have see a single chipmunk since I moved to Annapolis! I really MUST name my car. I’m gonna have to put my thinker on it because I’m obsessed with the idea now!


    • Denise, you’ll have to tell me your car’s new name when you make a decision! I tend to name everything, but on the down side, it makes it even harder to move on when something bigger and better comes along. 😉


  2. Maybe hazel needs an engine blanket to keep her warm :). Don’t they have plug in things for cars in places with real winter? (I am in CA, where we just get grey and wet, not so cold).


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