I was happily tootling down the main drag in our little hometown the other day when the “engine” light suddenly lit up on the dash. Geez, but I hate when that happens. Not more than two seconds later the car s-l-o-w-l-y and deliberately stalls. Thank goodness … I’d actually call it divine intervention … I was right in front of our trusty car repair shop. The little Toyota had just enough “get up and went” to coast into the shop’s driveway before it cratered. “Brian, my car just died and went to heaven I fear … for like no reason, and I just paid the last payment. Isn’t that what happens? You pay a car off and it knows,” I whined like a certified damsel in distress, after entering the repair shop. After a look-see, Brian determined it was probably the accelerator pedal angle position sensor, whatever the heck that is. It needed to be replaced. He would know more after running a full diagnostics check. Bottom line was he’d have to keep it for a day. Oh, and the repair could cost a grocery bag full of quarters between parts, labor and yada yada yada. “You better write that part down. I’ll never remember what you called the part that is busted,” I said, as he printed out the name of the part on the back of his business card. Now I don’t do anything without checking with the “big cheese” at our house regarding car repair issues. Fill the car with gas … I can do all by myself. Maybe even run a vehicle through the automatic car wash every once in a while. Don’t ask me how to check the oil. I know cars have a dip stick, but have never actually opened the hood of this particular car to find it. So obviously I’d never authorize an actual auto repair … not even goin’ there. The next day hubby and Brian had a few conversations about sensors and such before it was decided that something on the car could be “re-set.” We would take our chances and see if the engine light came on at a later date. I picked up the car after depositing only a mere sandwich-size zip-lock bag of quarters into Brian’s hands. Hubby, Brian and I had a conversation in the auto shop parking lot that day about the complexity of car repairs and the good old days. Brian indicated that there was a certain new vehicle out there that was really scary. Apparently, when the sensors go bad not only does the car stall … the steering goes out. My eyebrows raised in horror. “I’m callin’ you, Brian, the next time I wanna purchase a new car,” I said. “Buy a 1975 Monte Carlo,” Brian said. It wasn’t the last of our auto woes this week. Our son, Ricky, was up in Michigan visiting his girlfriend. They were taking a road trip to Washington, D.C. for a conference and made it as far as some little town south of Cleveland when Kate’s car, Wendy, started acting up. “The car engine suddenly started roaring like an airplane takin’ off,” Ricky told his dad via cell phone. They were hopelessly stranded somewhere on the side of an Ohio turnpike. “Did you have to take the front seat out and sit in the back to drive that little car?” hubby joked with his son, trying to lighten the mood. I have to say that today’s technology is a beautiful thing. Ricky took several pictures of the car engine with his cell phone and text messaged it to his dad’s cell. Wendy, the 1995 Geo Tracker, hubby learned, has one of those sideways-type engines. With the aid of the Internet, hubby was able to figure out what the engine looked like up close and personal, exactly where the kids were stranded, and found a repair shop to have Wendy towed to. After a lengthy consultation, what initially was thought to be a serpentine belt issue appeared more serious … as in a blown head gasket. Yuck. “I’d suggest you find someplace to park Wendy, taking out anything you want to keep. Kate’s dad might decide to donate the car to a worthy charity,” hubby suggested, hoping Kate wasn’t too emotionally attached to her car. Needless to say, the kids never made it to Washington, D.C. Being stranded took on a whole new meaning when we learned Kate’s parents were on a cruise ship headed for Alaska and weren’t available for search and rescue. A tad too young to rent a car and finding it too costly to fly east, they settled on Plan C … the eternal kindness of friends. Luckily, one of Kate’s was able to swing by a couple of hundred miles and pick up the pair, depositing them back in Michigan. That’s what I call a friend. Well, it’s been a few days and so far the engine light hasn’t come back on in the Toyota. You can bet I’m keepin’ one eyeball peeled on the dashboard … just in case it decides to “pull a Wendy.” Dixie Frantz is a long-time Kingwood resident and newspaper columnist since 1996. E-mail Dixie with your comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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