Dublin Saab

Cars, politics, sports and what not from my view. (Closed Sundays and Holidays)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Things could have gone much, much worse.

In what is becoming a rather disheartening habit Mila, for the second time in a row, had a break down on the way back home from visiting Jeremy in Wilmington. These two occurrences have both happened after Jeremy formalized his relationship with Rachel, who has the worst car luck of any person I have ever met. The women is a walking black hole of CARma, with an emphasis on walking. Now I’m not saying it’s Rachel’s fault per se. I’m just saying.

The last time Rachel’s gremlins waited until I was on the NJ turnpike before popping a hole in a coolant line, leaving me stranded in one of the worst areas of the US over a hole that would later cost me $1.25 to repair. This time they struck while still in NC and with potentially deadly consequences.

I was north bound on I-40, rolling along at about 70 mph and making good time when there was a slight “pomp” sound and Mila suddenly wanted to cross the median in a very emphatic way. I usually roll with a finger or two lightly keeping the car on track, especially in a pancake like the plains of NC but by lucky happenstance I did, at the moment of the “pomp” have a good grip of the wheel. God only knows what would have happened had I not and even with a good grip I still ran halfway into the passing lane before reigning her in.

I pull over onto a wide burm and run off into the nearby woods to change into my “car clothes”. After removing the front passenger wheel I found that the sway bar had popped out of its mounting bushing. WTF? Well, I knew I could pop it back in so I got the tools out and started to crank under the rising NC sun. Fortunately I didn’t have to get too sweaty because I quickly spotted the reason the sway bar had popped out. I had a severely broken lower A-arm, it had snapped clean in two.

The offending A-arm.

Resigned to the fact that I wasn’t going anywhere I put the wheel back on and called my new Allstate Roadside Assistance number, having chosen them over AAA after moving to NY. I was on hold waiting for someone to pickup for almost 30 bloody minutes. The message said they were experiencing “unusually” heavy call volume. Again, WTF? At 10am on a non-holiday Monday? What could be so unusual?

Having made a mental note to switch back to AAA I reviewed my options. A) Wait and see if someone, preferably a state trooper, to pull over. B) Wait on hold for Allstate while my phone battery drains away. C) Walk four miles to the next exit. D) Limp Mila down to the next exit. D wins.

When I got off the exit I was confronted with a wasteland. There was nothing there. There wasn’t even an old closed down gas station. Just tobacco fields as far as the eye could see. Which way to go? Mila made the choice simple, with the failed lower A-arm she could only turn right.

Now is when I began to laugh, but not the warm welcoming laugh of a humorous joke, rather the cold maniacal laugh a man makes on his walk to the gallows. I was traveling a hidden back road in the tobacco fields of BFE central NC, limping along at 5 mph in an esoteric old Swedish car that had a major part failure and while I had no idea where I was going to end up, I did know it was to the right.

I passed a few ramshackle old homes that looked like no help. I then came across a steel pole barn that was set back 60-70 yards from the road that I would have passed had it not been for a tiny sign at their driveway entrance that said, “Car Quest Auto Parts: Tune Ups, etc.”. So I pulled in the drive to check them out.

There were 3 guys working there. An old black man who never said a word and two middle aged rednecks that between them, might have had a full set of teeth. No one of them seemed at all bothered or interested in my having pulled up and walking into the work area of their shop where 5 difference farm tractors sat in differing states of disassembly. But it wasn’t a rude cold indifference to my existence but more like they figured if I was there I must have had a good reason and the last thing they wanted to do was get in my way. More deference than indifference.

I was first greeted at the shop by two fat old Labs, which I'm sure are required of back woods repair shops under law.

I tracked down the nearest guy, one of the “some’r” toothed white guys, and began to explain my situation. He then pointed me to the office and Bruce. Bruce it turns out owns the shop and seemed quite clean cut with a full set of chompers. I explained to Bruce what was up and suggested a call to a junk yard to inquire about getting a replacement part. He seemed willing and directed the grandmotherly lady working the computer (this fills out the complement of 5 employees) to call all the junkyards in the entire county… both of them. Not surprising both calls when something like, “what kind of car?” followed by laughter.

My options now consisted of A) Spend all the money having Mila transported to NY while I get home in a rental. B) Abandon Mila in NC and get a rental home. C) Spend the night a get a new A-arm overnighted. None of these were good options as I hadn’t won the lottery and had to be at work the next morning.

Bruce broke the silence and offered up the fact that even if I had the part I’d still need to get the car to a front-end shop as they need to press things on, do alignments and what not. I then informed him that was not correct. That the lower A-arm on an old Saab 900 was a bolt on part. Bruce gave me a look that said succinctly, “you’re nuts and I’m too polite to tell you so”. He instead offered to put Mila up on “the” lift and take a look at “what’s going on”.

You know you are in the south when the repair lift is outside!

Getting Mila over to the lift required more trips into reverse than a bulimic at a smorgasbord as it involved a left turn but I get her there, eventually, and Bruce was able to look for himself. He counted the 6 bolts – 3 times – and was genuinely surprised that the A-arm did just bolt on and off. He then took a look at the damage and said “well heck”. This is when things began to turn in my favor.

Bruce suggested taking the A-arm off and that he could take it, “into town” – what town I have no idea – and get it welded up. That sounded like a fine idea to me. I assisted Bill, one of the white guys, in removing Mila’s A-arm. He was most affable with the help as he had never seen a C900 before, let alone worked on one and I was not afraid to get dirty. With the A-arm off and in the back of the truck Bruce was off to town to get it welded up and lunch.

During this down time I was given a good ribbing over being from “New York!?”. It’s like something Hollywood comes up with but never really happens. The sophisticated urbanite lost deep in the southern back woods with a automotive break down. However I ruined their dreams by pointing out that I was from Ohio farm country and did not live in NYC. They easily accepted this as I was not put off by their rough nature and could cuss just as well.

I spotted this beauty behind the shop and thought I can't be that far from civilization. Too bad it's a kit car on a Mustang frame.

When Bruce got back it was lunch time, I had a chopped steak with sautéed sweat onions, whole kernel corn and roasted sweet potatoes. After lunch Bill and I got back to work putting the A-arm back on. The A-arm was solidly welded but not quite correctly with there being about ½ an inch of play in the slot the ball joint went into when it should have been a very, very sung fit. We got it on, tightened everything down and cleaned up the work area.

While Bill lowed the lift down I went to Bruce to find out the damages. Bruce asked me if $100 was fair.

$100? I had his lift and a 1/3rd of his work force for half of the day and he fed me lunch and wanted $100. I wish I had been the rich city slicker, I’d have paid him more.

As for the rest of the drive home, it was enjoyable uneventful.


At September 16, 2007 5:08 PM, Anonymous Mr Bussey said...

So I'm guessing youll be getting a proper A-arm and puttin that one in the archives for story puposes?

At September 16, 2007 5:46 PM, Blogger Dublin Saab said...

Mr. Bussey,

How could I possible throw away the welded A-arm? You might as well suggest I stop enjoying the taste of a good beer.

At October 29, 2007 12:56 PM, Anonymous Dale said...

That is a high quality Rotary two post lift they have there. That's professional grade. They at least know their equipment...


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