I have a love hate relationship with my Jeep Cherokee. On the one hand, it was the car I wanted. Of course, at the time of purchase, gas was about $1.19 a gallon. With typical prices of $2.80 a gallon these days I begin to hate my car. In the years that I have owned it (6), we’ve been through a number of things… flat tires, break ins, minor accidents, and the usual tune-ups. About two years ago, it developed a squeek.
Now, having been through squeeks before in other cars, I decided to have someone look at it and tell me where the squeek came from before deciding to fix it. Some squeeks are bad. Some are not so bad. In a previous car, the squeek ended up being a need to replace a $5 plastic fan blade that was part of the airconditioning system. So I had the car checked and… same problem. They fixed the squeek. But there was a side effect. Appearantly, they knocked a wire loose, and from then on sometimes the dashboard would go dead. They looked for the wire, checked the plugs, but ultimately couldn’t find anything to fix, but I could home remedy the problem by banging on the dashboard and it would spring back to life.
About six months ago, the car developed a squeel. The squeel could be stopped by turning off the air conditioning and then turning it back on, so I figure it wasn’t a big deal. Probably another fan blade issue.
Sunday, I’m driving over to Acworth from Duluth, the back way using Pleasant Hill and Arnold Mill. As I’m driving, the dash goes dead and the Check Gauges light comes on. I bang the dash and it all goes back to normal. I cross over 400 at Old Milton, and the light comes on again, only this time the rest of the dash is working fine. We drive for a bit as I look at my gauges. Gas, fine. Battery, fine. Oil, fine. Temperature, fine… no, wait… no… fine… umm… redline!
It was kind of like in the movies. I pulled off the side of the road and popped the hood, steam blowing off the engine. I give it a minute, then check the coolant. Empty. So we call my brother and have him drive over to pick us up and bring some coolant. I’m fuming now because I just got an oil change and they were supposed to check this stuff.
My brother arrives with the coolant, we fill it up and head on our way. All is right with the world again and I’m talking about how I’m going to give those guys a piece of my mind. Then the temperature redlines again. We stop, the coolant is fine, but still its over heating. We give the car a few moments, then head out again.
A little while down the road, redline. Once again I check the coolant and once again its fine. I decide to check everything. The oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid… basically everything with a dip stick or a valve I can open I check. All is a-okay. So we begin to travel yet again. Everything is going great until we start hearing an awful clanging under the car. And of course the temperature redlines again. We finally decide to give up.
Everyone piles into my brother’s girlfriend’s car, a VW Bug Convertible, four people and a dog, and we leave my car to deal with it later.
After dinner with Dad, we borrow one of his cars and the wife and I head to get the Jeep. The plan is to limp the car, which should be fully cooled now, to the Goodyear place not too far away, and leave it for them to inspect and repair the next day. So we get to the Jeep and I start limping it while the wife follows me.
Now, I’ve never been one to treat my car like a person, but somehow the moment felt like a good time to start. Back when I got my white Jeep Cherokee, some people insisted that I name it. The only thing I could think of was “Moby Dick”. So as we drove, I began, for the first time, to talk to Moby (Mr. Dick to strangers). I promised we’d make it better, that the Goodyear guys would fix everything that ailed it. All it needed to do was get there.
Moby almost did it. As I topped the last hill, I felt the engine begin to go. We were a hundred yards from the station and there was only a left turn remaining to go. But I knew that it would quit on me when I made the turn. I was right, and as I slowed to make the turn the engine gave up, along with the power steering, and I fought the wheel to make the left into the shopping center, and then the right into the parking lot of the Chinese place, and Moby finally silently pulled to a stop… with about a hundred feet to go. I tried the key twice and realized that it was no use.
Swept up in the moment, I threw open the door, popped the truck into neutral and began to push and steer. The truck was really heavy, but adrenaline gave me the strength to get it moving, and the power to steer. Across the parking lot we glided, but one more obsticle stood in our way… a small incline and a speed bump. The front tires cleared the bump, but not the rear, and quickly I hopped back into the car and slammed on the breaks.
For one last time, I turned the key and the engire roared to life. Together we made the last fifteen feet into a parking spot, and then I let Moby rest. It had done its best.
Honestly, I figured Moby and I were done, that it’d gone to big junkyard in the sky. However, one water pump, some hoses, new breaks, a transmission, and a head gasket later, and it appears Moby will be sticking around a while longer. And that makes me smile.
It may only get seventeen miles to the gallon, but I still love my Jeep. Hopefully in the near future, I’ll start working from home and more of my time in Moby can be spent enjoying the road.