Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fourth time lucky

I've heard it said, "Third time's the charm" or "Third time lucky"--which is, apparently, an old Scottish proverb. However, I also remember from high school English that William Shakespeare always wrote his plays with misfortunes in threes, and used the rule of three extensively throughout his works (remember "Friends, Romans, countrymen..."? the three witches in MacBeth? and multiple uses of threes in Love's Labor Lost?--which, incidentally, has a title of three words that all start with L!)

But I digress... this post actually has nothing to do with Shakespeare, although it does have everything to do with bad luck coming in threes.

Back at the end of March, we bought a new (to us) minivan. It's a '93 Plymouth Voyager, but in spite of the age, it had been impeccably maintained and had a lot of nice extras. We checked it out carefully and everything seemed to be in great shape. We drove our new ride on our road trip to Zion National Park in April, and more than 2,100 miles later, it seemed to be running strong.

Then, over the Memorial Day weekend, we went for a Costco run to Yakima. Just over the crest of Manastash Ridge, barely ten miles into the trip, the transmission dropped. Fortunately, this particular model of minivan has a "limp home" mode. So, while the van wouldn't go above second gear, we were able to drive back to the 'burg (albeit at 35 mph with the hazard lights on) and a few days later, roll into the shop.

Shortly after Jim got back from Atlanta in mid-June, the van finished in the shop. They had replaced the transmission (we opted for a slightly less expensive refurbed option, which came with a warranty). We drove it for a few weeks, just around town, and everything seemed fine.

Then, at the beginning of August, I decided to take the van down to Yakima for another trip to Costco. I had Audrey with me, but Jim and Jimmy had gone down to Sunnyside to meet Jim's brother and pick up his Mariner's tickets. I hadn't even gotten two miles out of town when I noticed the van was running rough, sounding wrong, and wasn't shifting gears smoothly when I accelerated. I got off at the nearest exit, then pulled over to the side of the road. I called Jim to tell him what was going on, and let him know I was turning around and going home. But when I tried to restart the van, it seemed to be dead, so I called my sister-in-law to come pick us up.

After loading Audrey's car seat into Anna's van, I realized I had left my purse in my van and went back to get it. I noticed that the rear windows, which have automatic controls, were open and so I turned the key in the ignition to close them. To my surprise, the engine turned over and started. I told Anna I was going to try and drive the van home, so she kept Audrey in her van and followed me. My van died six times on the way home--pretty much every time I came to a complete stop--once, it was as I braked coming into an intersection. But I did make it home, and the next day, we limped the van into the shop (it died only three times on that trip).

A couple weeks later, the mechanics said they had fixed the problem and Jim went to pick the van up on his lunch break. When it died on his way home, he turned around and took it back.

About three weeks ago, we got the van back from the shop again, and decided to go on another Costco run to test out the tranny. We got all the way to Yakima, made several stops for various errands, but before we actually got to Costco, we started to have the old, by this time familiar, problem with shifting gears and running rough, although it wasn't continually, and we were able to drive home at normal freeway speeds. The next day the van was back to the shop. Again.

Finally, yesterday at lunch, Jim picked it up. The mechanics had replaced the transmission control module (a computer that tells the transmission to shift gears, for those of us who are mechanically disinclined) and Jim was optimistic we were finally at the end of our transmission odyssey.

Of course, we had to drive it to Costco last night for a test run. Not just because that has become the litmus test for the drivability of this particular vehicle, but also because my last set of contacts popped out in the shower yesterday morning, and I needed to pick up replacements. I'm pleased to say the trip was completely without incident, and on the drive home we realized we had actually forgotten to keep listening for any variations in the gears shifting.

The morals of this story? The Bard will be vindicated. Beware of trips to Costco. If at first you don't succeed, you'll need to try at least three more times.

Oh, and always, always spring for the few extra bucks for a warranty when you get major car repairs; we haven't had to pay for those last three visits to the shop.

1 comment:

Dyann said...

What a monster headache! And what a blessing to have had the warranty!